Would you like to save $1,000s (or $1,000,000s if you start early enough) more for retirement? It’s actually easier than it sounds… and way more fun than giving up your daily Starbucks or taking on a second job. It’s an approach that won’t ask you to take on additional risk with your investments. Nor does it involve playing the lottery or joining a Multi-level marketing (MLM) program.
So, what is this magical habit that anyone can use to boost their retirement savings? It’s learning to negotiate!
In her wildly popular book, The Secret, author Rhonda Byrne, argued that the universe is full of abundance and that all we need to do to improve our lives is use positive thinking and pleasant rituals to tell the universe what we want. Just ask and you shall receive.
Want a million dollars? Visualize it. Make a vision board. Say it ten times every day at breakfast. And, voila! The universe will provide!
If there is any truth to this concept, it lies in the fact that putting our desires out into the world causes us to take actions that we wouldn’t have considered before. And, it is these actions that cause changes in our lives. But, that’s a story for another article.
In any case, today, I want to argue that, while negotiating with the universe is about as effective as trying to fly to the moon in a paper rocket, negotiating with everyone else really can chance your financial future.
Let’s go through a few examples…
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume that you are a 50-year-old man, living in Seattle. You have a decent job and a loving family. All of your kids of left the house. I’ll also assume that you are planning on retiring at age 67 (full retirement age as of the writing of this article for a man born after 1960.)
Let’s look at how a conversation might go for a negotiation involving your mobile phone plan. Then, I’ll give some examples of other costs that you might be able to reduce with a simple conversation.
Looking through your finances, you notice that you are paying $75 a month for your mobile phone plan every month. So, you call up your mobile phone operator to see if you can get a better deal. The conversation goes something like this:
You: Hi there! My name is Steve Smith. I’ve been with Mobile17 for 4 years and I’m paying $75 a month for my mobile plan. I’d love to see if there is anything that we can do to reduce this. Is this something that you might be able to help me with?
Note: Most people thing that negotiating is all about punching the other guy into submission. Maybe this is true if you are in an unusually strong negotiating position. But, in most cases, I have found that a softer approach works best. And, even using words like “might” in the sentence “might be able to help me with” avoid risking a strong initial rejection from the other party. Better to bring them onto your side of the negotiating table from the beginning. This is a problem that you need to solve together… not a game of tug-of-war.
Customer Service Representative: Ok, I can see that here in my computer. The problem is that you are still on a contract for the next 9 months. So, I can’t really offer you anything new. Is there anything else I can help you out with today?
Note: Customer service representatives love to hide behind company policy and contracts. Just ignore comments like this, stay positive and keep going. If you get stuck, you can always ask to speak with someone in their cancelation department.
You: I hear where you’re coming from. Here’s the thing… I’ve been seeing offers for $40 from other companies that provide pretty much the same service as I get now with you. If I have to wait to switch, I guess I’ll do that, but, I’d much rather get on a new 2-year contact with better terms and stay with you. In fact, if I switch now, I’ll actually save a bit… even with the cancelation fee. Is there any chance that you could make an exception and help to find a way to reduce my monthly fee? I really appreciate your working through this with me.
Note: I also love sayings like “working through this with me” and “how can we make this work together?” Most customer service reps spend half of their day being yelled at by angry customers. Be the exception and treat them with respect!
Customer Service Representative: I just need to check something. Can I put you on hold for a few seconds? [Elevator Music] Mr. Smith? Are you still there? Ok. I just spoke with my supervisor and it looks like we can do something here. We have a new plan that has everything that you have now, plus, [Insert FREE goodies here]. It’s $35 a month and, if you sign up for a new 2-year agreement today, we can waive any fees from your current contract. How does that sound?
Before you tell me that this would never work with your mobile provider… remember that the point of this article isn’t learning how to save for retirement by switching your phone plan. It’s about applying an approach to life that makes negotiating second nature.
But, let’s assume for a second that you did reduce the cost of your mobile plan by $35 a month for 9-months. What kind of an impact would that have on your future?
Well, if you invested your savings from the 9-months remaining in your contract in an S&P 500 ETF and got an average return of 10% per year for 17 years, you would have $1,592 in your account when you retired.
Where else could you make $1,600 in 10 minutes? As one of my university teachers once told me, “You’ve never made money faster than when you are negotiating.”
And, if you assume that you wouldn’t have actually switched to another company at the end of 9-months and would have continued at $75 per month, how much difference would a $35 reduction make over 17 years? If you invested the money… $19,000!
Learning to negotiate is difficult. It’s not that the skill is hard to learn; it’s just that, as humans, we don’t like conflict in any form. And, negotiating can feel awkward, until it becomes second nature.
But, once you integrate negotiating into your life, you will start to see opportunities to reduce your costs everywhere. For example, here are a few things that you might be able to negotiate:
Let’s assume for a second that you manage to save $1,000 a year by negotiating. 10% off here… $100 discount there… and before you know it, you would have saved $44,500 more for retirement. Once again, this is assuming that you invest your savings in a low-fee S&P 500 ETF.
Is it realistic to think that you could save this much? Absolutely! I know middle-class families who have found ways to save 2-3X this amount per year, just by making negotiating a natural part of their approach to life.
In a future article, I will give some specific tips on how to successfully negotiate in almost any situation. But, for now, I want you to know that you can get quite far just by asking what people can do to help you and being prepared to walk if you don’t get the offer you want.
Once thing is for sure. You lose any negotiating that you don’t even start!
What have you negotiated a better price on recently? Do you agree that negotiating is one of the best ways to save more for retirement? Let’s have a conversation.
Tags Retirement Planning