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3 Reasons Why Saving for Retirement Shouldn’t Be Scary

3 Reasons Why Saving for Retirement Shouldn’t Be Scary

Rent. Car payments. Student loans. There are plenty of reasons young adults are often stressed about money.

As a result, the thought of saving for retirement might seem laughable to some 20 to 30-somethings and downright scary to others. After all, the average Millennial has a hard time imagining a time when they won’t have student debt hanging over their head, let alone a time when they can leave the workforce. Plus, who wants to think about retirement when there’s so much life to live now?

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The truth is that saving for retirement shouldn’t be anxiety inducing at all. In fact, beginning your savings early will actually lead to a huge weight being lifted off of your shoulders in the long run. With that in mind, here are three reasons why you should stop worrying about saving for retirement and start doing it.

1. You can get free money with employer matching

If your job offers 401(k) eligibility, there’s a good chance they also offer some sort of employer matching or profit sharing. This is free money! However, in order to get that extra cash, you’ll probably have to contribute a certain amount yourself.

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When it comes to employer matching, every company is a little different. Some might match you dollar for dollar up to a certain amount, others might do 50 cents on the dollar, and still others might do a combination of the two. That’s why you’ll want to find out what the maximum percentage they’ll give you is and how you can obtain that amount. Then all you have to do is sign up.

Keep in mind that, while you’ll always be entitled to any money you put into your 401(k), your employer matching will likely be tied into what’s known as a vesting period. This could mean that you need to be with the company for more than X amount of years before you get to keep their contributions, or you might be able to keep a larger share with each passing year (20% after one year, 40% after two, etc.). Ultimately this could mean you lose out on some of the bonus money, but don’t let that dissuade you from opening an account in the first place.

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2. You can learn about investing

How much do you know about the stock market and investing in general? If you’re like most Millennials, then the answer is probably “not very much.” In fact, you might not even realize that, by having a 401(k) or IRA, there’s a good chance you’re already investing in the stock market.

Depending on the type of account your employer has or the type of IRA you open yourself, your contributions will likely be put into a mix of stocks, bonds, and securities. When you’re younger these investments can be more aggressive, which usually means a higher percentage of stocks that will fluctuate over time. Then as you get older, most people will move their balances into safer investments like bonds or money markets.

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While this process is mostly pretty hands-off, there is still a lot you can learn. For one, by watching your account (but not freaking out about the day-to-day ups and downs), you can see how stocks react to certain events, such as the Brexit or the presidential election. By taking an even closer look at your account, you can also learn about stock dividends and other terms you might have heard by turning on CNBC before the Shark Tank reruns came on. Ultimately this knowledge will come in handy should you decide to really up your investing game and buy stocks on your own.

3. You can watch your early savings grow into much more

The biggest reason to jump into retirement saving as soon as humanly possible is the amount of cash you’ll have saved up by the time you need it. By getting a head start on your contributions and taking advantage of compound interest, your small deposits will amount to a hefty sum that will carry you through the rest of your time on this planet. You’ve probably seen the TV commercial that demonstrates this idea using increasingly larger dominoes. While that’s not a bad comparison, looking at the actual numbers might do more to impress you.

According to hypothetical proposed by Business Insider, the difference between starting your retirement savings at 25 as opposed to 35 could mean you end up with double the amount of money when you reach 65. As they figure, if you started putting just $200 a month into an account with an average return of 6% at age of 25, you’d have just over $400,000 40 years later. However, doing the same starting at 35 would only result in about $200,000. Furthermore, the difference in principal contributed is only $24,000 ($96,000 since age 25 versus $72,000 since age 35). If this doesn’t get you to start thinking seriously about setting money aside for retirement now, I honestly don’t know what will.

Conclusion

When you’re in your 20s or early 30s, retirement is probably about the last thing on your mind. While it might seem strange, these are actually the years you want to not only be thinking about retirement but also start saving for it. Setting money aside for your later years doesn’t mean you’re getting old or that you’re wasting your youth — it just means you’d like to have some money to enjoy life after you’re done working. So what are you waiting for?

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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