If you’re in college your retirement might seem like a long way off. And it probably is, assuming you aren’t one of the very few people who become a wildly successful professional athlete and strike it rich early.
Unless you are currently swimming in cash as a college student and free of taking out educational loans, it probably isn’t realistic to be saving for retirement until you get your first post-college job. While now may not be the time to start investing into your retirement, here are three tips to remember as you’re setting up your career, and the rest of your life.
Minimize Debt:Saving for retirement is a lot harder if you’re paying several hundred per month against debt. So think twice (or three times) before accepting the full amount for educational loans that are offered to you and ask yourself if you really need all of it. Once you start working, make a plan to pay down your debt as soon as possible.
An increasingly popular choice for graduates today is to head back to the parents’ nest for a year or two to save money for life on your own. Keep in mind that living with your parents only helps if you use it as a springboard to save, not as an opportunity to free up more spending money.
Career and Employer Choices: When you’re looking into employers and eventually weighing (hopefully) several employment offers, consider more factors than just the dollar signs on the salary. Once you’re off your parents’ healthcare plan on, or before, your 26th birthday you’ll need your own plan, which can be costly if your employer doesn’t offer one.
Additional non-salary factors to consider are moving expenses, cost of living, vacation, and retirement options. Retirement plans where your employer matches your contribution guarantees you a 100% return on investment, not an easy feat investing your money elsewhere. Also keep in mind if you are part of the nearly 50% of Americans who think that Social Security payments will be important in your retirement that they currently average about $14,000 per year.
Start Saving Early: Within your first month of getting paid you might find yourself wondering how anyone can spend this much money, and then within a few weeks wonder where it all went.
A great strategy to start saving early on is to have money automatically deposited into a savings account. It is much easier to adjust to having less right from the start than to save what you have left.
To emphasize the importance of saving consider this scenario of two employees at the same company.
Alice is 25 and starts contributing $100 every month ($1,200 per year) toward retirement. Alice plans to retire at 65 so she has 40 years to save. Sheila also contributes $100 every month, but she waits until she is 30 because life was just too hectic to start saving earlier. What’s the difference in retirement savings at 65? Alice will have saved $310,000 compared to Sheila’s $206,000 – or a difference in over $100,000. Why does this happen? The miracle of compound interest that you once learned about in math class.
Five years is the difference between surviving and thriving in retirement. Your youth is an investing advantage you will never get back.
Remember that it is important to save up for both retirement AND a regular savings. The savings account is there for you when you need money for big purchases, to handle emergencies, etc. without having to use credit cards and lose money on the interest.
It is important to avoid a mindset of “I’ll start saving when…” It will never be a better time to start. So take the America Saves Week Pledge and start today.