If I asked you which generation had the best retirement outlook, what would you say? Baby Boomers? Gen Xers?
Surprise! It’s Millennials.
If you’re a Millennial, you’ve probably heard about your generation in less-than-flattering terms, but I’m here to tell you some good news: Millennials have the best chance of enjoying the retirement of their dreams.
Though you still have the saving hurdles of older generations, like paying down debt and the rising cost of living, you have a big advantage as a Millennial: time. And a lot of you are already making use of it.
An impressive 58% of Millennials are currently saving for retirement, compared to 55% of Baby Boomers and 65% of Gen Xers, according to a Ramsey Solutions research study.(1) And compared to older generations, Millennials like you have decades longer to save!
If you’re a Millennial, how can you harness that time to build wealth? It’s simple! Get started with these five steps:
Step 1: Know the Why Behind Your Wealth Building
I get it. When you’re young, saving for your future doesn’t feel very important. That chapter of your life is over 30 years away! You want to be responsible, but you also want to enjoy your life now.
So how do you stay motivated for the long term? You need a strong why. Here’s a tip: Your why should be more specific than just saving for retirement or leaving a legacy. That’s why I want you to take the time to dream in high definition about the details of your future and share them with others, especially your investing pro. Maybe you want to:
- Travel the world without worrying about money
- Give money to causes and ministries
- Take your family on an all-expenses-paid vacation
- Help your grandkids pay for college
- Retire in your 50s!
Most importantly, your why has to be yours. You need to own it! With every contribution, you’ll get fired up knowing that you’re moving closer to your dream. Now that’s saving with a purpose!
Step 2: Start Saving NOW
When you’re starting your career, the idea of being financially secure enough to quit your job may seem impossible. According to a Merrill Edge report, 83% of Millennials plan to work in their retirement. And nearly one in five of the survey participants claimed they would need to "win the lottery" to be able to retire.(2)These are Millennials like you—who still have decades left to save!
Having options when you reach retirement is possible. Don’t let debt or the desire to keep up with your friends’ lifestyle hold you back from your dream. If you start your wealth-building plan now, it takes a lot less effort than you think.
Let’s say you start investing a modest $300 a month when you’re 25 years old. By retirement, your nest egg could be worth $2.1 million! Your contributions make up only $150,000 of that grand total. The rest is compound growth.
What if you wait until you’re 40 to start saving for retirement? You would have to invest $1,340 a month to get to that same $2.1 million. Since compound growth doesn’t have as long to do its job, your contributions would make up almost $435,000 of that total. Now do you see why it’s so important to start saving early?
Can you have a secure retirement if you get started in your 40s? Absolutely! You just have to work a lot harder to do it.
The best part about starting early is that you have wiggle room in your budget to reach other goals. You could save for a new house or take that dream vacation. You could go out with your friends without feeling guilty! Can you imagine what that kind of freedom would feel like?
Plus, after starting that early, do you think you could retire even sooner? You bet! What if you saved $500 a month? Or $750 a month? Use an investing calculator to see the long-term impact of your contributions. The earlier you start, the easier it is to hit that million-dollar milestone.
Step 3: Switch Your Savings Gears
If you’re a Millennial, it’s likely that you’re already great at saving. Fidelity research shows that 59% of Millennials have money saved in an emergency fund to cover unexpected costs. Even more impressive, their average savings sit at $9,100. That’s higher than the average emergency fund savings of both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.(3) Way to go!
Since you’re already flexing your savings muscles, setting money aside for your future just means switching gears. Once you have three to six months of expenses saved for emergencies, it’s time to start investing in a 401(k) or Roth IRA. Or both!
Saving cash may seem trendier or safer than investing, but the returns of the stock market are too good to pass up. If you’re just socking away cash, you’ll be lucky if you average a 1% rate of return. But the S&P 500 has averaged over 11% growth over the past 30 years.(4) When it comes to your wealth-building plan, cash won’t cut it. It won’t even keep up with inflation!
Here’s how the average annual returns can impact your savings if you invest $500 per month over 30 years:
That’s a million-dollar difference! It’s okay to use cash accounts for short-term savings goals like vacations, but you need the power of mutual funds in your 401(k) and IRA accounts for long-term saving.
The great news is that many Millennials are already contributing to workplace retirement accounts. In fact, their median savings rate improved even more than Baby Boomers or Gen Xers over a two-year period, increasing from 5.8% to 7.5%, according to a Fidelity study.(5)
While 7.5% is a great start, I recommend saving 15% of your gross income toward retirement. Simple changes like creating a plan for your money every month can help you get that saving on track. It’s a lot easier than you think!
Step 4: If You Change Jobs, Roll Over Your Retirement
When you got your first job, you may have started contributing to a workplace retirement account. On average, Millennials start saving for retirement at the age of 23.(6) But here’s something else to consider: Millennials also have an average of four different jobs by the time they’re 32.(7)
Combining these two stats brings up an important question for this generation. What happens to your retirement savings when you switch jobs? If you’re not careful, you could make a mistake that costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to Fidelity, the average cash-out amount for workers under 40 who switch jobs is $14,300.(8) That may not sound like a lot, but here’s what happens when you cash out your 401(k) instead of rolling it over to an IRA:
- You’ll have to pay a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.
- You’ll have to pay taxes based on your tax bracket.
- You miss out on any compound growth.
If you rolled that $14,300 into an IRA when you switched jobs at age 30, it could be worth over $485,000 by retirement. If you cash it out, you could be left with only $9,650, depending on your tax bracket. That cash-out could cost you close to half a million dollars!
Does that seem like a good deal? I don’t think so either. Unless you want your job-hopping to keep you from wealth building, roll over any workplace retirement accounts with each job switch. It’s easy—just a matter of some paperwork.
Step 5: Be Active in Your Wealth-Building Plan
Around 94% of Millennials said they want to learn more about investing, according to Schroders Global Investor Study 2016.(9) Chances are, that’s you. You’re already making some good decisions with your money, and you’re probably doing research on your own to find out the answers to your questions about building wealth.
But let’s set the record straight. Doing some research online then setting your investments on autopilot is not an investing strategy.
Your situation is unique, and your investing portfolio deserves a personalizedapproach. An investing professional can help you:
- Learn about investing so you feel empowered to make decisions.
- Maximize your investment growth while taking your risk tolerance into account.
- Evaluate your fund performance so you can keep your portfolio balanced.
Don’t leave your retirement strategy up to chance. Get involved and stay involved for the long term by working with an investing pro.
Related: Imagine how much faster your nest egg could grow with an extra $700 or more. You could find money like that simply by having an independent insurance agent check your insurance rates.
You Can Do It!
Not sure how to get started? Our SmartVestor program makes it easy to find investing professionals who can help you reach your financial goals. You’ll get information about several pros in your area, and you can choose the one you want to work with. You can interview as many pros as you want to decide which one is right for you.
What’s standing in your way? You’ve got a million-dollar opportunity waiting for you. It’s time to get started!
About Chris Hogan
Chris Hogan is the #1 national best-selling author of Retire Inspired: It’s Not an Age; It’s a Financial Number and host of the Retire Inspired Podcast. A popular and dynamic speaker on the topics of personal finance, retirement and leadership, Hogan helps people across the country develop successful strategies to manage their money in both their personal lives and businesses. You can follow Hogan on Twitter and Instagram at @ChrisHogan360 and online at chrishogan360.com or facebook.com/chrishogan360.