First, the bad news: the later you start saving for your retirement, the harder it will be to build the nest-egg you want. A New York Times article about the importance of saving for retirement demonstrates the power of compound interest. Someone who starts investing $5,000 a year at age 22 will retire with more than half a million dollars more than someone who starts investing the same amount ten years later, the newspaper calculates.
Those ten years make the difference between retirement at the age of 67 with $557,173.80 and retirement at the same age with $1,063,717.57.
How to Create a Retirement Savings Habit
The best time to start saving for retirement is like the best time to plant a tree: ten years ago. The second best time, though, is now.
In the rest of this guide, we’ll talk about the different funds in which you can place your retirement money. But for now, here’s some good news: saving is a habit. Once you arrange that first direct debit or set up a monthly contribution from your salary, you’ll start to see your pension pot growing. You’ll understand that while that saving means that you might not be able to afford a more expensive car today, it does give you a degree of security. You’re acting responsibly. You can see that at the end of your career, you’ll be able to stop working and still live well.
And it’s exciting to watch that pot grow. You’ll want to keep watching it grow so you won’t want to stop making those payments. Even when you find that you have larger expenses than usual or want to make a big purchase, breaking the habit of putting money away for the future will feel too painful. You won’t want to do it.
You should do more.
Ways to Build Your Retirement Savings Habit Strong
Your income should rise between the time you start saving and the time you retire so in addition to making regular payments, you’ll also need to increase your payments.
At the start of each year, take a look at your retirement funds. Make sure that you’re still on track to reach your retirement savings target. But also see if you can add more to your savings each month. If you were to increase your contributions by 1 percent, for example, would it affect your standard of living? Those few extra dollars, compounded over decades, might make no mark on your life now but they could make a big difference when you reach retirement.
You can also adjust your contributions as your life changes. When you pay off your student debt, you’ll feel the relief. You’ll have more money to enjoy today. But you’ll also have more money that you can use to increase your monthly retirement contributions. If you receive a promotion that increases your salary, you can—and should—channel some of that extra income into your pension pot. If you receive an inheritance, make sure that you can put some of that money into your retirement funds as a one-time payment.
Your retirement savings habit should consist of:
- Regular, monthly payments that you don’t stop making until you retire.
- Adjustments to those monthly payments as your financial situation improves.
- One-off additions when you receive lump sums.
The question, though, is where you put those funds and how you save for your retirement.