The Secret Life-Changing Money Habits of Super Savers

Lindsay Mott  |  February 7, 2023

Want to save more for retirement? Learn how to stash extra cash from the experts who help super savers cushion their nest eggs. 

Have you heard of the term “super-savers”? They’re essentially modern-day financial unicorns who move a LOT of money to their retirement accounts every year. The global investment management firm Principal defines super savers as those who annually defer 90% or more of the IRS maximum to their retirement accounts or save 15% or more of their salary for retirement. In a recent Super Savers Survey conducted by Principal, more than half of  Millennials and Gen Z surveyed said they were planning to save more than $20,000 for retirement this year. 

While tucking nearly $20,000 a year away isn’t a realistic goal for everyone, there are things you can do right now to move in that direction. And if you’re motivated to save more for retirement, then any amount you save is a huge step forward.  

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Staycations and Older Cars

The study also shows these savers favor large sacrifices like driving older vehicles (49%) and restricting travel (40%) over short-term cuts to their daily expenses to max out their retirement contributions. For most (74%), the main motivator is for financial security and a good lifestyle in retirement (71%).

“If there’s one common trait of the super savers, it’s that they are dogged savers that are laser focused on accruing enough wealth to create a better financial picture for themselves,” says Sri Reddy, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions at Principal. “Super savers bet on themselves, which means things like volatility and inflation don’t shake them from their financial goals. They embody some of the best practices in retirement savings, so they prioritize consistency and preparation.” 

These people are working strategically to save, and as Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst with, says, they’re likely high earners “saving $20,000 or more annually gets much easier the more you make.” Those with lower incomes can also learn from the super savers surveyed by Principal. Here are more practical tips on how to prioritize saving, while making it easier on yourself in the process. 

Always Meet the Match 

First things first. Before you can think about maxing out your retirement accounts, you’ve got to prioritize monthly contributions to your 401(k). That means if your employer offers a matching contribution as part of your retirement plan, take advantage of that and defer enough of your paycheck to ensure you get the match. The match is essentially free money, notes Reddy. (Plus, when you put money into a retirement account, you’ll gain the benefit of lowering your taxable income in the process.) 

You can also establish an “auto-escalation” of your retirement savings each year, Reddy explains. This essentially automatically increases your payroll deductions each year, so that you’re always saving more. Aim to increase savings by at least 1% annually, or when you receive a raise. Do this and you could be a super saver in no time. 

Choose High-Interest Accounts 

After you meet the 401(k) match, notes Reddy, set aside any remaining savings into a high-yield savings account or a Roth IRA. Especially in an inflationary environment, it’s essential to look beyond a traditional savings account that accrues little interest, instead opting for something with a higher return. Also, in the current environment, some high-yield savings accounts are paying as much as 4% interest. Here’s a look at the best rates on high-yield checking accounts available now. 

Compound Interest: Eighth Wonder of the World  

When saving and investing, the rule of thumb is to start as early as possible: Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re able to save much, every dollar counts. “Albert Einstein noted that compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world,” Rossman says. “In other words, time is one of your biggest assets as an investor. Every dollar you set aside in your 20s or 30s could be worth $15 or $20 by the time you retire. If you earn a 10% return, your money doubles about every seven years. The more time you have to compound, the better.”  Compounding happens when earnings on your savings are reinvested to generate their own earnings. Here’s a thorough explainer we love! 

Make sure to stay disciplined during downturns, too. This is long-term money so don’t get swayed by short-term market moves. 

How Much do You Really Need? 

A good rule of thumb is that you need to save 25 times your expected annual expenses, Rossman says. This is related to the idea that you can withdraw 4% of your portfolio every year and expect it to last for a 25-30-year retirement. There are many variables, including if you have an expensive or frugal lifestyle, and life expectancy, which is now longer than it used to be.  

He says: “Even if you plan to retire at the traditional age of 65, you should plan for your money to last at least 25-30 years. This often means keeping a significant amount of your money invested in stocks, even in retirement. You should have a few years’ worth of expenses in cash or very safe investments such as bonds, but you also need some longevity protection. The growth potential of stocks is important. A rule of thumb is that your stock allocation should be 110 minus your age (so someone who’s 70 might have 40% of their portfolio in stocks). People used to say 100 minus your age, but I think that has changed as people are living longer.”

Create Your Own Definition of Retirement

Times are changing and people are often working longer, often because they choose to do so. “The most important thing to consider before retiring is if you have enough savings and/or additional income to support your desired lifestyle,” Reddy says. “While we all have our own retirement dreams, first and foremost, you need to be able to cover your necessary living expenses. If you feel confident in your ability to cover those necessities, you can then move to consider if you have enough saved to achieve your long-term retirement goals.”

If you’re not sure what you might need going into retirement, you can also talk with a financial professional who can look at what you’re contributing to retirement based on your savings and long-term goals. 


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