Planning for retirement may not seem like a feasible option for some young adults in today’s economy. While the U.S. job market and economy is slowly recovering from the Great Recession, those in what is known as the “millennial generation,” who were born after 1980, have more debt and lower wealth than their parents had.
According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in February 2014, Millennials are “the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles.”
The survey interviewed 1,821 adults nationwide and compared the findings with similar surveys conducted between 1990 and 2014. It found that two-thirds of recent bachelor’s degree recipients have outstanding student loans, with an average debt of about $27,000. Two decades ago, the study notes, only half of recent graduates had college debt, averaging around $15,000.
Saving for retirement: It’s important to start early
Considering the weight of debt and lack of job security that Millennials are facing, it makes sense that retirement may not be the first thing on their minds.
But most financial advisors, including Bankrate and Fidelity, recommend that young people start saving early and stick to it, even if that means saving just a small amount each month. If you start saving in your 20s, your money will have more time to compound than it would if you started saving later in life. That means bigger returns down the road.
Retirement planning tips for young adults
Enroll in a 401(k) program. If you’re eligible to enroll in a 401(k) program through work, be sure to sign up and participate. This option makes saving automatic with every paycheck. Your contributions are deposited into the account before they get taxed, saving you more in the long run.
Open a Roth IRA. If you don’t qualify for a 401(k) plan, consider opening a Roth IRA. You can set up automatic deposits into the Roth IRA from your bank account, similar to a 401(k).
Save wherever you can. Keep track of your bills and cut out discretionary expenses when possible. For example, cook at home instead of going out to a restaurant. Watch your spending on expenses such as travel, shopping, and television, and record how much you can save each month. Add those savings directly to a savings account and see how much the account grows in a year.
Get professional help. Seek out trusted financial advisors, and don’t get intimidated by personal finance jargon. Even in a struggling economy, being proactive about retirement is feasible. The sooner you start, the better your future.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to take risks. When you’re young, your investments should be risker, becoming more conservative as you reach retirement. A professional advisor can help you figure out a specific plan that’s right for you.
When you’re in your 20s, retirement seems like it will never come. But it will quickly sneak up, and it’s important to be prepared. Imagine your perfect retirement—where do you want to live? What do you want to do? Then start saving to make that a reality.
Ilyce Glink is the author of over a dozen books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In! Her nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters,” appears in newspapers from coast-to-coast, and her Expert Real Estate Tips YouTube channel has nearly 4 million views. She is the managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog, publisher of ThinkGlink.com, and owner of digital communications agency Think Glink Media. In addition to her WSB radio show and WGN radio contributions, she is also a frequent guest on National Public Radio. Ilyce is a frequent contributor to Yahoo and CBS News