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If you just graduated from college, you may be wondering when is the right time to start a retirement savings plan. The answer is now, experts say.
By that point, 55% of Americans who are already working think they’re behind in saving for retirement, according to a recent Bankrate survey. That includes 71% of baby boomers and 65% of Gen Xers. But even some younger workers are concerned: Nearly one-third, 30%, of Gen Z think they’re falling behind.
In addition, the most common regret of older employees and retirees is that they did not start planning or saving for retirement early enough.
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Getting started with a retirement plan in your twenties can help you avoid those regrets, stay on track, and feel more confident.
“This investment is something that will reward you for a lifetime,” said Douglas Bonepart, a certified financial planner and president of Bone Fide Wealth in New York. He is also a member of the CNBC Advisory Council.
“Not only will it reward you, but it is necessary to manage your life successfully,” he said. “The more work you can put in today to create this foundation, the easier things will be when things get more complex down the road.”
Here are three tips to keep in mind.
1. Start within your means
Inflation can make it difficult to get started. Amid higher prices, 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent report from LendingClub.
Despite those challenges, young adults can create a retirement savings plan that fits their lifestyle, Bonepart said. Even starting with a small amount can make a difference over time because of the power of compound interest. And it gives you a foothold to increase your contribution over time.
Lazetta Braxton, CFP and co-CEO of virtual planning firm 2050 Wealth Partners, suggests trying to match your expenses with something called the 50/30/20 budgeting strategy. This requires that you spend no more than half of your income on basic expenses, and set aside 30% for discretionary expenses and 20% to “pay” yourself through savings and investments.
2. Take advantage of free money
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If you work for a company that offers a 401(k) plan or some other type of retirement plan, make one of your first goals to contribute enough to the plan to get full employer approval. It’s free money.
“At least you’re contributing an amount that your employer will match,” said Braxton, who also sits on CNBC’s advisory board.
3. See a financial advisor for help
Talking to a financial advisor can help you prioritize your goals and create a plan. (Advisors aren’t just for the rich: some charge by the hour or by project.)
“Make sure you’re aligned with people who have your best interests at heart first,” Braxton said. This means looking for an advisor who has the CFP designation or is otherwise required to act as a fiduciary.
In addition, it is wise to look for someone you trust and who understands your goals.
“A good financial planner is one that looks not just at your investments, but at all aspects of your life,” Braxton said.
“You want someone who will walk with you, help educate you and help you make life decisions,” she said. “Because you’re just starting your investment journey in your 20s and it’s so crucial to have someone you can trust.”