#MillennialMonday: Retirement Ready

Millennials may be in the age range of 18-34 year-olds and have several decades to work before they retire.  However, just starting their careers, Millennials are cognizant of retirement after witnessing the fallout from the Great Recession of 2008, where their parents and grandparents scrambled to make up retirement savings that were lost in the financial crisis.

While generally speaking, Millennials may be more aware of saving for retirement, they might not know the best practices to get the biggest bang for their buck.  This doesn’t mean every Millennial is considering saving for retirement, in fact, some may think that they have plenty of time and something they don’t need to consider right now.  But here’s why they do.

Long gone are the days of working in one place for the rest of your life and getting a pension plan.  Most individuals are changing their career more than five times in a life span, and with that comes the switching of the organization they will work with as well. In fact, this behavior in embraced by Millennials, more than any other generation. So the security of a pension plan is most likely not in the works for Millennials when they retire.

Pension plans aren’t the only retirement security blanket Millennials can’t count on.  As it turns out, more and more Millennials are realizing that Social Security well may be dry  by the time they retire, or at the very least look very different than it has to our parents and grandparents.  Chances are a program like Social Security will not be eradicated by the time Millennials retire, but the likelihood of collecting like parents and grandparents are just as unlikely as the program ceasing to exist.  This is why Millennials are deeming to do more work to save for their retirement on their own than depending on the government.

Dare I remind Millennials everywhere of the student loan debt that is causing us to extremely tighten the purse strings?  That scenario alone as well as the big purchase decisions of home and car buying are leaving Millennials wondering: we want to start saving for retirement now, but can we? and how?

Keep these items in mind as you get Ready for Retirement:

1.) Balance debt and expenses with saving:
Many Millennials think that managing their expenses while paying off their debt cuts down on available funds to save for a later day.  On the contrary it is possible and encouraged. A lot of people seem to have the mindset that getting rid of debt first is key so it isn’t following you forever.  But creating a balance allows all financial goals to be met, without neglecting saving or letting debt get out of control.

2.) Set financial goals NOW
Keep in mind the bigger picture, and the bigger purchases. Buying a home needs a 20% down payment and buying a car needs a hefty down payment as well.  But perhaps the biggest picture and biggest financial goal is retirement, as the money we put away now will be what we live off of when we are no longer working.  If we make financial goals for ourselves now, seeing where we want to be will help give us a more realistic picture of the means we can live within and what we have to do to make those goals a reality.  If we make a goal today, it can help us stay on a track to better deal with any financial fallout that may arise beyond our control.

3.) Never forget about the Compounding Factor:
Compounding refers to investment gains being made on top of investment gains.  So if we put money away grows due to interest.  A person who takes advantage of the compounding factor in their 20s will have twice the amount of money saved as one who starts saving in their 30s (based on a fixed 5% interest rate).  That means starting now means more money later!

4.) Take advantage of employer retirement plans and automatic paycheck withdrawals
A lot of employers, in their benefits packages, offer a retirement plan that usually has an employer matching offer.  This means that if you put a percentage of your pay into a retirement plan, your employer may match your contribution or at the very least some percentage of their own.

Not only is the employer match opportunity great with these types of benefits, but the option to have automatic withdrawals from your paycheck.  This means that before you can even get your paycheck to spend any money, a percentage is taken and put into your retirement plan.  It’s a great opportunity because you can’t miss what you don’t have in a sense, and your retirement is being taken care of without you having to worry about being active in it.  This will also help manage your finances more realistically and prioritize better since a portion of your paycheck is missing, meaning you’re not getting as much as your normally would and are forcing yourself to manage your finances on a lesser bill, or in this case paycheck.

5.) Find the retirement plan that is right for you
Research 401(k)s, Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs.  401(k)s are the most practical as they are mostly sponsored by an employer and offer and employer match of some sort.  However, Roth IRAs offer the incentive of no taxes on withdrawals after age 59, which means the money you put up front now, won’t be taxed if you hold out until your 60s to cash it in!  Either way certain retirement plans work best for certain people given their specific circumstances.  Seek out help from a financial advisor, make financial goals and see what retirement plan is best to give you a comfortable retirement!

6.) Protect your retirement with an emergency fund
An emergency fund is critical to build in order to protect your retirement, yet when planning for retirement most people neglect it.  An emergency fund or 3-6 months salary (I would rather push to 8 months to guarantee a solid cushion) is a necessity for those uncontrollable or unimaginable emergencies pop up.  It could be losing your job or getting sick, but the list is endless.  Most people don’t prepare an emergency fund and in the event of something bad happening, they panic and pull from their retirement, which could mean facing a financial penalty on that plan while also losing out on growth in that plan.  Should something happen, an emergency plan is essential to make sure you stay afloat and that your retirement does, too.

So how much of your salary should you put toward retirement? Experts say 15 – 25%, which yes is a lot for millennials facing huge debts and managing their expenses.  But the moral of my story, if you put something away now even if its 5-10%, while managing debt and expenses, you are putting something away.  Something is better than nothing. Not to mention, if you consider retirement while also paying off debt, once that debt is done you are in the clear to up your stakes for retirement contribution.  So get ready for retirement, Millennials! It’ll be here before you know it!

#MillennialMonday is aimed at giving Millennials advice and insight into how they can better live healthier, happier, more fulfilling and financially sound lives! Whether it’s dealing with short-term or long-term issues, facing job or relationship dilemmas, check here every week for something new aimed at making Millennials, the generation labeled as reshaping the future, even more equipped to do so.

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