Very few have the discipline and fortitude to set a plan, a budget, and stick with it.” – Jason M. Kats from UBS Wealth Management Americas, as quoted by The New York Times.

In November 2015, The New York Times ran a story about a man named Chris Reining who, during the depths of the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis, came to an important realisation.

He was 29 years old at the time of the global recession. Looking all around him, he saw people at his work who were 30 or 40 years older than him and still living the cubicle lifestyle.

Unfortunately, that situation is all too common.

In Australia, the retirement age is currently 65 and is set to rise to 67 years in July 2023. While that is the age at which you become eligible for the Age Pension, only those individuals that have saved an amount they can live off comfortably through their retirement years can safely move on to the next stage of their life.

Reining, who was 36-years-old at the time The New York Times ran the story, looked back on those years and said: “I didn’t want to be living that life. It was this feeling of being trapped and not being in control, being enslaved to a job, being enslaved to my possessions.”

Many Australian families are familiar with Reining’s situation.

Financial stress and dependence is very common. The anxiety facing many individuals about paying the bills on time or dwindling down that mortgage can be tough to bear – particularly during times of heightened uncertainty or economic vulnerability.

The good news is, there is a way out of that life, as Mr Reining demonstrated.

Unable to resign himself to the cubicle fate that many of his co-workers faced, he set himself a goal to have $1 million in his brokerage account by the time he was 35. Doing so wouldn’t be an easy feat, given that he was only earning $75,000 a year at the time, but he was prepared to practice the necessary discipline in order to get there.

To quote The NY Times:

Mr. Reining is part of a small group of supersavers who commit to a number that they say will support their lifestyle in retirement and never stray from achieving that goal. They are the financial equivalent of people who go on a diet, lose the weight and actually keep it off.”

For many individuals and families, saving is no easy task. While some do struggle to make ends meet, others enjoy spending a lot on themselves, whether it be on new outfits or lavish wines and dinners.

Some dentists, for instance, will be less financially stable than some low-income workers because of the lifestyles they commit to, showing that it doesn’t necessarily matter what industry the person works in: everyone can face financial hardship.

Find a sensible path

Determined to save more, Reining sought out ways he could reduce his spending. He started by cutting his expenses by a manageable 10%, then increased the amount to more than 50%.

Granted, the typical family will likely struggle to scale back their expenses by that magnitude. It’s also important to take a sensible approach. You need to enjoy yourself and spend some money on yourself, or else it’s unlikely to be sustainable – much like a diet that is overly restrictive.

But many can find ways to curtail the amount they spend on certain items. For instance, by purchasing home brand products rather than the more expensive brands; or limiting the amount you spend on new clothes, or going out for dinner less regularly.

Set goals

In order to achieve financial goals, you need to set them first.

Start by looking through your weekly or monthly expenses and determine which items you can cut back on, or even do without altogether. Then, create a budget and stick to it, reviewing it semi-regularly to ensure it still makes sense for your current position.

Investing the money you save is another great way to boost your wealth in the long-run, and can better ensure you’re in a position to retire both comfortably and on your own terms.

Investors today could look at businesses such as CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) or perhaps Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS), which are two of Australia’s blue-chip businesses.

Conservative investors could also look to invest in the SPDR S&P/ASX 200 Fund (ASX: STW), which closely tracks the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) index.

Although investing in the share market is known to be volatile, it has also historically generated far greater long-term returns than investing in bonds or simply holding cash. Diversifying your holdings and ensuring you hold some cash at all times are two sensible ways to mitigate the risks.

Foolish takeaway

Everyone’s situation is different. Some individuals and families will be able to reduce their spending significantly, thereby saving more each week, while others will struggle to find areas for improvement. But most people can set up a budget and goals and identify some areas where they can make a saving. Even a little bit of money saved each week can go a long way in the long-run.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.