现在/马上/以后。这也是著名作曲家斯蒂芬•桑德海姆为音乐剧《小夜曲》（A Little Night Music）第一幕创作的三重奏的名称（先分奏，再合奏），《小夜曲》中最广为人知的著名歌曲是《小丑进场》（Send In The Clowns）。当我坐下来写这篇专栏的时候，我想到了这些歌曲。为什么？谈到钱，我们通常都会有很多事情计划马上要做，太多事情我们告诉自己以后要做，但我们现在采取的行动却不够多。
第一份报告是《富国银行中产阶级退休调查报告》（Wells Fargo Middle-Class Retirement Study），这是该行第五份年度报告。报告发现在50岁至59岁的美国中产人士当中，40%的人当下还没有进行退休储蓄。半数以上的受访者表示，他们计划日后进行退休储蓄，以弥补当下储蓄不足。富国银行机构退休和信托总监乔•瑞迪表示，这一策略的问题（或不足之处）是推后的时间越久，就越难实现。他说：“生活日后会变得更加艰难，当你一拖再拖时，你将进入紧缩时期、面对年迈的父母和子女进入大学等问题。”
这就涉及到了第二项调查。这项调查由美国金融理财师标准委员会（Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards）进行，调查当今父母为子女上大学进行储蓄的状况，结果发现三分之二的父母还没有开始为子女未来的教育支出进行储蓄。为什么不呢？当前的生活费用是个障碍，其中一个令人吃惊的事实是，很多父母仍在偿还他们自己的学生贷款。
“就我看来，这些都不是特别现实，”金融理财师标准委员会的消费者维权人士埃莉诺•布莱尼表示。她说得对。据美国大学生资助研究（The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study）显示，每年仅8%的大学生获得奖学金（平均奖金3400美元），不到1%的学生获得运动员奖学金（平均10200美元）。从祖父母和外祖父母处获得资助的可能性看起来要高一些；据富达投资（Fidelity Investments）的调查显示，超过半数表示，他们正在或计划进行储蓄。计划资助的金额中值不低，为25,000美元。但近三分之一的父母甚至根本没有想过子女上大学的事。就算他们可能仍只有二三十岁，不是四五十岁，但笔者作为过来人，目前有一个孩子在上大学，另一个很快也要上大学，我敢保证你很快就会面临这个问题。
Now/Soon/Later. Those are the titles of a trio of gorgeous Stephen Sondheim songs – performed separately, then all at once – from the first act of A Little Night Music (the show known best for giving us Send In The Clowns). I thought of them (and you can listen to them here) as I sat down to write this column. Why? Because when it comes to our money there’s often a great deal that we’re planning to do soon, and all too much that we tell ourselves we’ll do tillater, but not nearly enough that we attack now.
That’s the takeaway from two new pieces of research I got my hands on this week.
The first is the fifth annual Wells Fargo Middle-Class Retirement Study. It found that four in 10 middle class Americans between 50 and 59 years old are not currently saving for retirement. Moreover, more than half of the pool of respondents say that they plan to save later for retirement in order to make up for not saving enough now. The trouble with this strategy (or lack thereof) says Joe Ready, Wells Director of Institutional Retirement and Trust, is that the longer you put it off, the more difficult it gets. “Life gets bigger and harder later,” he says. “When you keep delaying, you run into crunch time, aging parents, kids in college, etc.”
Which brings me to the second survey. This one, from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, took a look at the viability of saving for college among today’s parents and found that more than two-thirds haven’t started socking away money for their children’s future education expenses. Why not? Current living expenses are getting in the way – including, surprisingly, the fact that many are still paying off student loans of their own.
What’s troubling about this study is not the fact that these parents have put both their own emergency cushions and retirement funds ahead of saving for college for their kids – that’s exactly as it should be says Jean Keener, a Financial Advisor from Keller, TX – but rather the sort of magical thinking that’s going on behind the scenes.
When asked how they expected to finance their children’s education, 45% said they expect to get merit aid and scholarships; 13% said they expect their children to win athletic scholarships, and 16% said they expect the grandparents to kick in.
“It appears to me that they [are] not being entirely realistic,” says Eleanor Blayney, Consumer Advocate for the CFP Board of Standards. She’s right. According to The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, only about 8% of undergraduate students receive scholarships each year (they average $3,400) and fewer than 1% receive athletic scholarships (which average $10,200). The prospect of help from grandparents looks better; more than half say they’re either saving or planning to start saving, according to research from Fidelity Investments. The median amount from planning to participate is significant: $25,000. Yet, nearly one-third of parents haven’t even thought about college for their kids yet. Granted, they’re more likely to be in their 20s and 30s than their 40s and 50s, but as someone with one child in college and another on the way, I can attest, it creeps up on you very quickly.
So what to do if you can see yourself in one or both of these pool of survey respondents. Something. Start by trying to save just 2% of what you’re bringing in; put the contributions on auto-pilot to be sure they actually make it into the designated pot. As Keener notes, “Here’s the thing. Someone is reading this and thinking, `It’s too late for me.’ But you don’t have to make these changes all at once. Look at your long-term plan and trim around the edges to start supporting all that you want down the road.”