By Treasurer David McRae
Most people learn what it takes to make money with their first job in high school and how easy it is to spend a dollar on their first grocery bill in college. But many don’t learn what it takes to save a dollar until they’re twenty or three decades into their career – and that’s a problem.
While more than half of Americans agree it’s important to start saving for retirement in their 20s, more than 50% haven’t started by age 34 and 42% haven’t started by age 44. As a result, America is entering a retirement crisis – a crisis where retirees rely on meager taxpayer-funded safety nets, rather than comfortable personal savings accounts and investments.
While it’s always a good time to start saving, there are huge benefits to starting when you’re young. A worker, for example, who begins to save at the start of his career will have 30 to 40 years to accumulate the wealth necessary for a comfortable retirement. Small monthly contributions can grow with interest, gradually creating a nest egg to draw upon in retirement.
However, those waiting until they are 40 or 50 only have a decade or two to earn interest and must contribute significantly more each month to reach their goals, often requiring them to extend their working years and delay their retirement. The math makes sense, so why not start saving earlier? The answer is simple: why do today what we think we can delay!
Unfortunately, few can afford procrastination. So, let’s start today. Experts say that if you start young, setting aside just 10% of your monthly salary will position you well for a comfortable retirement.
Where should this money go? Here are some ideas recommended by financial experts:
If your employer offers a 401k, take advantage of it. If they offer a match, maximize it to ensure you double your money every time you contribute.
If you own your own business or your employer doesn’t offer benefits, consider options for saving separately. For example, you can put up to $6,000 a year in an IRA (more if you’re nearing retirement). The money you contribute can often be used as a deduction to reduce tax payable next year.
Look at other ways your money can also work for you. A health savings account can help pay for expenses that your health insurance doesn’t cover. Most contributions are also tax deductible. You can also consider a college savings account with the Treasury (visit Treasury.MS.gov/CollegeSavings to learn more). These tax-advantaged accounts can help alleviate or eliminate your child’s student loan debt, ensuring they start their career on a solid financial footing.
When retirement is out of sight, it can be easy to forget about it, too. Take a moment this week to reflect on your savings stance. If you find you’re in good shape, spend some time talking with your kids or grandkids about their savings. We have a responsibility to the next generation to have this discussion. I’ve posted tools on Treasury.MS.gov/FinancialEducation to help you create a budget and start your savings journey.
Mississippi Treasurer David McRae is the 55th Treasurer of 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 Cash.MS.gov.