Money can be a touchy subject with millennials. This is the generation that is getting hit the hardest with disabling student debt, low wages, and the recession, which hit right as they were graduating college.
It wasn’t an uncommon sight to see someone in the mid-20s and lower-30s, with a college degree, living at home with their parents. Those who are making it, are barely doing so. High rent prices and the cost of living constantly outpacing their ability to get raises has made life difficult for most of our younger generations.
When the website MarketWatch wrote a piece about how much money 35-year-olds should have saved up (about twice their salary to be safe), the fury was intense. There were many responses of varying degrees, from righteous indignation to jokes to cut the tension.
The message was clear. Millennials SHOULD be saving their money, but they simply can’t afford to. We recently wrote an article talking about how Americans still can’t afford their basic needs. This is a growing problem as debt keeps piling on and wages remain stagnant. Many families still have to make tough decisions and what they can afford and what has to wait.
If you can barely afford to feed yourself, you’re not going to have enough to save, especially if you’re paying insane interest rates on loans just to keep your head above water.
The sad reality is, we can’t talk about retirement enough. This is a subject no one should pass up just because it’s a difficult conversation. No matter what we’re dealing with right now, we need to keep it a part of our thinking and budget planning. In fact, it should be a priority.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach to saving for retirement. What you’re going to need and when you’re going to need it will vary per person, but if you haven’t even begun to address the issue in your 30s, you’re in danger to fall well short by retirement age.
Social Security is dwindling and no one knows how much longer it will last. Many experts aren’t even sure what the future of the program will look in the next 30 years. It’s not a program today’s millennials can take for granted or expect to still exist. They will have no choice but to invest their own dollars into their retirement plan.
That starts now.
There are two things people can do to ensure they’re in a good spot.
The first is to save as much as you can. Ideally, you should be putting away 15% of your monthly salary. If that’s impossible, trying to cut back as much as you can. Even 5% saved is better than nothing. As the economy improves and your situation is better under control, you can up the amount you save.
The second way to better prepare yourself for retirement is to take care of your debt. Don’t keep adding more to it just because you want that shiny new car. If you know things are tough and you can barely afford to save, paying a large debt that’s mostly interest isn’t a good idea.
As of this writing, the government has put in place several programs designed to help people pay back their student loans. Most people who qualify for these programs can have what they owe significantly reduced, as well as the time it takes to pay back these loans.
The sooner you pay down your loans, the more money you’re able to save. Nothing is more important than your future and the future of your family. Paying off debts and having extra money to put away is only the first step into gaining financial freedom.