Published July 10, 2012
Retirement might seem far in the distance for young workers, but a staggering 44% of 24-to-34 year olds don't know how to reach their retirement goals, while only a third have calculated how much money they will need to continue their current lifestyles. It's never too early to begin planning for your golden years. Here are five expert tips for young adults to get ahead:
1. Develop a clear plan.
Barrie Christman at Principal Financial Group encourages young workers to set a number goal for retirement funds to serve as a powerful motivation. To obtain adequate savings by age 65, she suggests saving enough to have a retirement account balance that is a third of your current employment income by age 30, but twice your then level of employment income by age 40.
Christman adds that most people need to save between 11% and 15% of their salaries over the course of their careers.
Online retirement planning calculators or help from a financial professional can be useful tools when evaluating your retirement goals.
2. Start saving today.
As a young investor, your investments could potentially experience massive growth thanks to compounding interest. Someone who starts saving later in life would have to contribute a lot more money to catch up.
Young workers should enroll in your company's 401(k) program. If your employer offers a match program, contribute enough to get the full match and take advantage of what is essentially "free money."
Certified Financial Planner Jon Ulin prods younger workers to save up to $5,000 a year in a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA as a first step if they do not have an employer-based savings plan or are self-employed.
According to Ulin, the principal contributions to a Roth IRA can be accessed penalty free at any time, potentially making it a more viable option for workers who need less of a tax incentive today.
3. Get out of debt and stay out of debt.
Always strive to stay out do debt and pay off account balances with high interest rates first, like credit cards and car loans.
Christman recommends consolidating loans at a lower rate if possible and saving for emergencies to prevent future debt. Aim to have several months of cash available for unexpected events to avoid swiping your card and racking up high interest rate credit debt.
4. Develop and monitor your budget.
"Establishing good spending habits and living within one's means early in the working years can help young adults in establishing a solid financial foundation for the rest of their lives," explains Certified Financial Planner Kevin Worthley.
Keep track of where you're spending your money and search for ways to save. For instance, attempt to reduce transportation costs, consider sharing your space with a roommate, or cut back on entertainment expenses.
With more time to overcome market setbacks, experts recommend younger investors to consider investing a considerable portion of their portfolio in stocks, index funds and other stock-based products that allow for the best growth over time while outpacing inflation rates.
T. Rowe Price's Senior Financial Planner Stuart Ritter says that investments in stocks have historically provided more long-term opportunities than bonds and short term investments. Invest in equities for long-term growth potential, he says.
As retirement approaches, investors can transition to a less risky portfolio with more fixed income and less equities.