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When should I start saving for retirement?
When you are young, retirement is likely the last thing on your mind but planning for it shouldn’t be. The earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow and the more financially healthy you’ll be in your retirement years.
The magic of compound interest
The biggest benefit to starting early is the value of compounding interest. Compounding interest is when the earnings of an investment are reinvested into that same investment and continue to grow. It’s like earning interest on interest, and it can lead to substantial investment rewards. The critical component in compounding is time. In fact, the amount of time you have even outweighs the amount of money you invest.
Here’s an example: let’s says you want to start saving and invest $1,000 with the credit union. You also decide to save $150.00 each month after that. After 30 years, assuming the average interest you’ve earned is around 5%, you’ll have over $125,000! The total amount of money you invested was $55,000, but through the magic of compounding interest, you were able to earn an additional $70,000.
If you follow the same scenario but only save for 15 years, your total is only $40,000, and your net return is $12,000. Those extra years make a BIG difference so the sooner you start, the better. Want to run the numbers for yourself? Check out this calculator to see what compound interest could do for you.
If you do want to start investing, here are two common ways to get started.
Ideally, you’ll be able to start saving as soon as you begin earning a paycheck. If you employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, that’s a smart option, especially if they offer a matching contribution. The money you contribute to the plan is automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into your 401(k) account before it’s taxed which allows you to save a little more. It also lowers your current tax liability since you won’t have to pay taxes on the contributions or the earnings until you take a distribution from the account. Generally, a company will match your contribution to the plan up to a designated percentage. It’s essentially free money so the sooner you take advantage of this benefit, the better.
Another way to start saving for retirement is by contributing to an IRA. With a Roth IRA you contribute after-tax money to the account, but any money withdrawn later is tax-free. You can also arrange for a monthly direct deposit into your Roth IRA which will help you stick to a savings plan. If you’re self-employed, you have the option of opening a SEP IRA. You won’t have the benefit of a company matching contribution, but it will still offer the ability to save on a tax-deferred basis.
The sooner, the better
When it comes to compounding, time is your friend. The smartest step you can take today is to start saving for tomorrow. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, especially since most retirement savings plans are set up for automatic investment. Just remember, the earlier the better because tomorrow will be here sooner than you think!
How Much 20-Somethings Should Save for Retirement
Your 20s may seem like an odd time to think of saving for retirement, but it’s actually the perfect moment to start planning for your later years. That’s because the earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow.
Savers who begin setting aside 10% of their earnings at 25, for example, could amass significantly more by retirement age than those who wait just five more years to start saving. You can use a retirement calculator to see how much you should start saving now to reach your retirement goal.
Building a nest egg on a starter salary and a shoestring budget can seem daunting, though. Focusing on the incremental savings, rather than the goal, can help your savings objectives feel more manageable.
How much to save for retirement
For those earning around $25,000 a year, the median income for 20 to 24 year olds in 2015, saving the recommended sum of 10% amounts to a little more than $200 a month.
It may seem like a reach, but consider this: If you start saving $100 a month at age 25 and invest it to return 7.7% a year — the average total return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks over the past decade — you’ll have more than $378,000 available at retirement age. And it could be tax-free.
If you wait until you’re 30 to start and save the same monthly amount at the same rate of return, you’ll wind up with less than $253,000.
Several vehicles can help you build a retirement fund. A 401(k) plan, typically offered by your employer, is often the most convenient and easily accessible of these. Contributions you make usually aren’t taxed, which helps reduce your income tax liability.
Pre-tax 401(k) accounts make up around 80% of retirement plans offered by employers, according to the American Benefits Council. Roth 401(k) accounts are another option, though these are less widely available, and money contributed to a Roth 401(k) account goes in after it’s taxed. Money withdrawn from this type of account — including earnings — is usually tax-free.
Companies that offer a 401(k) plan often match employee contributions, up to a certain percentage. This is essentially free money toward your retirement.
If your employer will match your contributions, try to take full advantage and commit a large enough percentage to get the full benefit.
Beyond a 401(k), individual retirement accounts, commonly referred to as IRAs, offer another solid option. There are two types: traditional and Roth.
Money put into a traditional account is tax-deferred, similar to funds put in a traditional 401(k) plan. That means those funds aren’t taxed until they’re taken out. But typically any earnings you make with the money are also subject to income taxes on withdrawal.
Money put into a Roth IRA has already been taxed when you earn it, so there’s no immediate tax benefit. When it’s time to withdraw the cash, however, you usually don’t pay taxes on it. And anything the money earns also can be taken out tax-free.
Contributions to both types of IRAs are currently capped at $5,500 a year for those under age 50, and $6,500 for older workers.
How much to save for emergencies
In addition to retirement, it’s also wise to save for a rainy day. Ideally, your emergency fund should be enough to cover three to six months of living expenses.
Some experts suggest setting aside even more for savings and investments: 20%. That’s roughly $415 a month on an annual income of $25,000.
That’s not always feasible, especially if a big chunk of your monthly income goes to student loan and credit card payments. Consider saving what you can, even if it’s just $10 a month.
Making a habit of saving now could serve you well down the road. And, as your income increases, the percentage you save can as well.
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