A Millennial’s Guide to Retirement Planning

Building a strong and secure retirement plan is a necessity shared by all generations. Just like each generation that came before, millennials face a unique set of challenges (and advantages!) when planning for retirement.

In 2008, this generation witnessed a devastating recession hit right in the middle of their coming-of-age years. Unemployment rates shot up, which meant that careers, and therefore saving for retirement, were delayed for many recent grads. According to a recent Bankrate study, nearly one in five millennials (aged 18-29 in this case) are too deep in student loan debt to even begin saving adequately for retirement. And for those not weighed down by debt, the 40-year-long assignment of retirement planning is still understandably daunting.

The good news is that when it comes to retirement planning, time is one of the most valuable resources. millennials have time, and advancing technology, on their side. Although we can’t predict the financial landscape of the future, we can provide some timeless advice to help you get started.

Advance your financial education. Truth be told, there are no one-size-fits-all rules for retirement planning. You will encounter a myriad of options at each stage of your life, and the future financial landscape will always be a guess. The single best thing you can do to plan for a financially secure retirement, and life along the way, is to invest in your own financial education. There are plenty of resources to choose from. Since you’re reading this blog, you’re already on the right path!

Make a plan. Take the time to write a formal plan, being as detailed as possible. You are ten times more likely to achieve goals that are written out, because you are more likely to live by your personal guidelines and less likely to make decisions that set you back. You won’t be able to predict all the circumstances and decisions that will enter your life between now and retirement. However, if you define what you want and begin working towards it, your goals will be more resilient to life’s surprises.

Prioritize your goals and compromise when needed. In your plan, prioritize your competing financial goals in order of importance and urgency. These goals might include becoming debt-free, saving for retirement, pursuing post-graduate education, providing education for your children, or buying a house. It might seem impossible to pay off student loan debt, begin saving for retirement and still have money to cover day-to-day expense during the process. And this very well might be impossible without compromise. Making slow progress towards two conflicting goals over time is more likely to provide consistent financial stability than being too concerned with achieving any one goal right away. The key here is being smart about how your goals are prioritized and when you choose to compromise.

Lower your lifestyle cost. Here is where compromise comes in again. It sounds simple enough, but many people struggle to match their lifestyle to their income level. According to a recent Schwab survey, nearly half (44%) of millennials prioritize eating dinner out and vacations over building savings. Start to budget where you can in order to find a few dollars at the end of each month. Consistently allocating small amounts into a savings account can pay off over time. Commit a few weeks or a month to monitoring your spending habits, then decide if you can make any adjustments.

Begin to build assets, if it makes sense. Most millennials don’t invest in stocks – either because they can’t afford to, or have a distrust of the market due to that recession they witnessed. And if you’re swamped with debt, investing in stock, bonds, or real estate might be out of the question right now. However, if you have any amount of money to invest, your 401k, a low-risk IRA, or No Penalty CD are great places to start. Most companies will automatically enroll their employees in some sort of retirement savings plan – and that’s a great thing! You can usually adjust the percentage of your paycheck that is automatically contributed up to a certain point. If you’d like to save a higher percentage of your paycheck, set up an automatic transfer to another account. Transferring a portion to your savings account is a win-win since you can easily access these funds if needed.

Have you had success with any of these practices, or have your own retirement tips for millennials? Let us know in the comments!

Related Articles:

What Millennials Need to Know About Credit

401(k) Employer Match: Are You Saving Enough for Retirement?

Ready. Set. Retire: Boost Your Savings

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