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The term "millennial" references the group of people born between the years 1980 and 2000, but it represents a lot more than just that. Millennials are now the generation making up the largest percentage of the workforce, with 53.5 million employees falling into this category. They're also characterized in a variety of ways, some negative and some positive: They're multitaskers, but also easily distracted (mostly by social media). They love to collaborate with others, but also need constant praise for their achievements. They aren't that into marriage and are much more into "finding themselves." They're so obsessed with technology that they sleep with their phones.
What's not typical of millennials? Saving for retirement...
I get it. I'm a millennial myself and with many of us facing crippling student loan debt, rising costs of living, and stagnant wages, retirement seems like a far-off land you'll never get to actually explore, but that's not reality. We know that it seems a little ridiculous to start thinking about the end of your career and old age when you've only just started working, but it's about a lot more than just "retirement". Making smart money decisions today helps ensure that you'll live the lifestyle you want, no matter what age you are. Retirement might connote a picture that doesn't necessarily excite you right now, but if you live long enough, it's inevitable there will be a time when you will need to tap into long-term savings. Cue: beginning to save now.
1. Compound Interest
The fact that retirement seems light years away may not help with your motivation to save, but it will help in another area: what we in the biz like to call compound interest. At this young age, time is on our side. All those examples you see where it just looks like a complicated math problem circa high school algebra: Amy saves X amount of money at Y age and then has a million dollars in 30 years. Those are actually real life if you start investing now. Take this example, for instance: If a 25-year-old making $30,000/year starts saving 6% of their salary, plus gets a 6% dollar-for-dollar match from their employer, at age 65, their 401(k) could have more than $950,000 in it. Alternatively, if you waited to start saving until you were 30, you'd reduce your retirement savings at age 65 by about $225,000. You'd have to be saving 10% every year, as opposed to 6% in order to make up the difference. Every day that you put off saving into a 401(k) or similar investment vehicle, is another day that compound interest could be at work. Think of all the early-bird dinner specials you might be missing out on in your golden years!
2. Matching Contributions
Apparently, millennials are too busy on Snapchat to realize that their own employer may be one of their greatest sources of retirement planning help. Apparently, 35% of workers age 25 and 30% of workers age 30 don't maximize their employer match. This is when they match a certain percentage of your own contributions. First and foremost, check to see if your employer offers this and if so, find out from your HR department exactly how your particular matching formula works. The formulas can be different, but what it boils down to is that you're getting free money from your employer. Typically, you will receive matching funds somewhere between 1-6% of what you contribute. If your company does in fact offer this fantastic benefit, we definitely recommend at least contributing enough to your retirement plan to qualify for the match (there's usually a minimum percentage you have to put in yourself in order to receive matching contributions). If you don't, you're voluntarily missing out.
3. Increased Life Expectancy
Another fact about millennials: We're super into health & fitness and that compounded with the fact that life expectancies just keep rising, millennials are going to live a very long time. Social Security wasn't intended to provide an income for people living to 100 years old and beyond, so we are essentially responsible for safeguarding ourselves against running out of money later in life. Time to get real: You don't know what could happen. You might not be able to continue working for as long as you want and may need another stream of income. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing, even with Medicare. This is what your retirement savings are for. Sure, cashing out your 401(k) for something fun now sounds great, but you'll get hit with taxes and penalties for withdrawing early and that money won't be there if you really need it when you no longer have the choice to work or not.
4. Preparing for the Unknown
The concept of working at the same job for 30+ years and then retiring at 65 is becoming a thing of the past. Millennials are much more entrepreneurial and want to do things in their professional life that they feel passionate about. They appreciate the flexibility and don't necessarily want to be tied down to the same company or field for their entire life. Work is viewed as more fluid for them and taking a year off to backpack through South America or leaving a stable position to start something entirely on their own are increasingly becoming much more popular paths in life. For that reason, it's important to prepare as early as you can so that you still do have the freedom to do these things AND save for your future. The peace of mind that saving early for retirement can bring is empowering in and of itself.
While the traditional "American Dream" of getting a job straight out of college, getting married, buying a home, and retiring at age 65 with a pension may not be exactly the norm anymore, it's still important to think about your future goals and what it will cost to achieve them. Retirement doesn't have to mean what we've been shown for decades. It can mean whatever you want! No matter what your ideal retirement looks like though, you'll need the funds to make it possible, and now is the perfect time to get started saving.