By Treasurer David McRae
Most people learn what it takes to make a dollar with their first job in high school and how easy it is to spend a dollar with their first grocery bill in college. But many don’t learn what it takes to save a dollar until they are two or three decades into their careers – and that’s a problem.
While more than half of Americans agree it’s important to begin saving for retirement in your 20’s, over 50 percent haven’t yet begun by age 34, and 42 percent haven’t begun by age 44. As a result, America is entering a retirement crisis – one where retirees are relying on meager taxpayer-funded safety nets, rather than comfortable personal savings accounts and investments.
While it is always a good time to begin saving, there are tremendous benefits to starting while one is young. A worker, for instance, who begins saving at the beginning of their career will have 30 to 40 years to accumulate the wealth needed for a comfortable retirement. Small contributions each month can grow with interest, incrementally building a nest egg from which to draw once retired.
Those who wait until their 40’s and 50’s, however, have just a decade or two to earn interest and must contribute significantly more each month to achieve their goals, often forcing them to extend their working years and delay retirement. The math makes sense, so why don’t we start saving earlier? The answer is simple: Why do today what we think we can delay!
Unfortunately, few can afford the procrastination. So, let’s begin today. Experts say if you’re starting young, putting away just 10 percent of each month’s paycheck will position you well for a comfortable retirement.
Where should that money go? Here are a few ideas financial experts recommend:
If your employer offers a 401k, take the benefit. If they offer a match, max it out to ensure you are doubling your money each time you contribute.
If you own your own business or your employer doesn’t offer benefits, look at options to save separately. For example, you can put up to $6,000 a year into an IRA (more if you’re nearing retirement). The money you contribute can often be used as a deduction to decrease next year’s tax liability.
Look at other ways your money can work for you as well. A Health Savings Account can help pay expenses your health insurance doesn’t cover. Most contributions are tax deductible too. You might also want to consider a College Savings Account through the State Treasury (visit Treasury.MS.gov/CollegeSavings to learn more). These tax-advantaged accounts can help mitigate or eliminate your child’s student loan debt, ensuring they start their careers on sound financial footing.
When retirement is out of sight, it can be easy to put it out of mind as well. Take a moment this week to consider where you stand on saving. If you find you’re in good shape, then spend some time talking with your children or grandchildren about their savings. We have a responsibility to the next generation to have this discussion. I have posted tools at Treasury.MS.gov/FinancialEducation to help create a budget and begin your savings journey.
Mississippi Treasurer David McRae is the 55th Treasurer for the State of Mississippi. In this role, he helps manage the state’s cash flow, oversees College Savings Mississippi, and has returned more than $45 million in unclaimed money to Mississippians. For more information, visit Treasury.MS.gov.