As the saying goes, “it’s never too early to _____________.” For retirement planning, this is especially true. Times have changed and millennials need to do some extra strategizing to prep for their golden years…starting now.
Tim Lemke authored a brilliant article on Wise Bread that lays out 8 things millennials can do right now to ensure a secure retirement. And as our readers know, we’re big fans of Tim and Wise Bread, so here is that article, courtesy of wisebread.com:
When you’re young, it’s hard to think of retirement planning as a priority. You have barely entered the workforce; now you have to think about what to do when you’ve stopped working?
But if you are of the millennial generation, the road to a comfortable retirement should begin now. And with the right moves, you may even be able to retire early. Consider these financial moves to supercharge your retirement plan.
1. Develop a net worth mindset
One of the keys to saving for a comfortable retirement is to focus on accumulating things that grow in value while reducing your liabilities.
This means earning and saving as much money as possible while eliminating debt. It means investing and watching your money grow, through things like stocks and real estate. It means avoiding spending money on things that will lose financial value or have no value to begin with.
This mindset will help you develop a high “net worth,” calculated by how much your assets exceed your liabilities. You can’t retire unless you have a high net worth, and you can’t get there unless you make the right financial choices — especially at an early age. (See also: 6 Money Moves to Make If Your Net Worth Is Negative)
2. Open an IRA
If you have any earned income at all, you can open an individual retirement account (IRA), which allows you to invest in almost anything and enjoy tax savings along the way. With a traditional IRA, any money you invest is deducted from your taxable income. With a Roth IRA, contributions are taxed upfront, but any investment gains can be withdrawn tax-free when you retire. You will pay a penalty and taxes if you withdraw money before you turn 59½.
These retirement accounts can be powerful saving vehicles if you have the discipline to set aside as much money as you can. The earlier you invest, the more time your money has to grow. (See also: 5 Retirement Accounts You Don’t Need a Ton of Money to Open)
3. Put money in a 401(k)
If you are employed by a company, there’s a good chance that you have access to a 401(k) or similar plan. Don’t ignore your human resources representative when they hand you a stack of plan documents urging you to sign up.
A 401(k) plan allows you to invest in a variety of mutual funds and other investments, and your company will often match your contributions up to a certain amount. Money you contribute is deducted from your taxable income. You should invest as much as you can into your 401(k), but it’s imperative that you at least contribute enough to get the maximum in matching funds. Your contributions, coupled with the matching funds, can add up to millions of dollars by the time you decide to retire. (See also: 401K or IRA? You Need Both)
4. Open a taxable brokerage account
There’s no rule that says all your investments need to be in retirement accounts. Regular taxable brokerage accounts don’t have the same tax advantages as IRAs or 401(k) plans, but they do offer other perks, chiefly the flexibility to withdraw money whenever you want it. This is especially key for someone looking to retire before age 59.
Taxable brokerage accounts can be used to accumulate dividend stocks, bonds, or other investments that provide income that will allow you to retire early. (See also: 7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have)
5. Get a side hustle
To accumulate enough money for an early retirement, you’ll need a healthy and steady income. If your day job doesn’t quite pay enough, look for other ways to generate cash. This may mean freelance writing or playing guitar at local coffee shops. Maybe it’s tutoring math, working as a DJ, or doing ASMR videos on YouTube.
If you’re young, you have energy and freedom, and the ability to make some cash on the side. Earn it, invest it, and watch it help you retire for good from work at an early age. (See also: 14 Best Side Jobs For Fast Cash)
6. Learn to budget
It’s simple: The only way to invest money is to save it, and the only way to save it is to spend less than you earn. This may be easier said than done, especially if you aren’t making a lot of money early in your career. But it needs to happen.
Start by tracking your spending so you know precisely where your money is going. Then create buckets for various categories of spending (rent, food, entertainment, etc.). Budgeting requires focus and discipline, but can be fun — and ultimately rewarding — when you see your savings grow. (See also: 9 Ways Staying on Budget Can Be Fun (Really!))
7. Tackle that debt
You may have student loans. As a result, you may also have credit card debt. If this is weighing you down, it’s time to do something about it or an early retirement will be impossible.
Begin by going after some of the most onerous debt first — usually, this is the credit card debt with the highest interest rate. Once the debt is eliminated, you can begin to focus on actually saving and investing, rather than simply making ends meet. (See also: The Fastest Method to Eliminate Credit Card Debt)
8. Get insured
The ability to retire early is as much a product of avoiding disaster as accumulating wealth. It’s hard to save and invest aggressively if you find yourself saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, or expenses to replace items lost when your apartment flooded.
You may think that health insurance is a waste of money because you are young and in good shape. You may think that you’re a good driver and don’t need comprehensive auto insurance. But if you truly want to gain financial independence and work toward an early retirement, you must be properly insured. Even if you have insurance now, review your policies to make sure you’re covered at the right levels. Fail to do this, and you may find a single disaster will send your financial future off track. (See also: 15 Surprising Insurance Policies You Might Need)
About Wise Bread:
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About the article author, Tim Lemke:
Tim Lemke has spent more than 20 years as a business writer and spent many years as a journalist for publications in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area. He has covered issues relating to personal finance, investing, economic development, technology, and the business of sports. He has worked for the Washington Times, Washington Business Journal, and Maryland Daily Record. He managed a local news website for Patch and recently served as manager of digital content for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Currently, he is a freelance business writer for various corporate and non-profit clients.
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