Holy smokes I’m 30… where has the time gone?

Better yet where has my money gone?

This is something that many millennials are starting to figure out.  We’re getting older and surprised by it – like it somehow snuck up on us unexpectedly! And in true millennial fashion, we’re already contemplating our retirement. Only 25 to 30 more years of hard work and we’ll get to enjoy all of the fruits of our labor – when we’re finally 55. I can picture it now, lounging on a beach somewhere in a tropical destination, traveling when and where I want all while still having enough money to be able to help my kids out with everything they need.

Lofty goals right? Surely I’ve been saving every dime since I started working in order to afford such a lavish lifestyle. Surely my hard work will translate into retirement dollars without taking any action on my part, right? Wrong! Working hard isn’t quite going to be enough. I’m also going to have to SAVE, but wait, SAVING is HARD!

Millennials have insurmountable student loan debt, mortgages, cars, and in some cases (like mine) children.  It seems laughable to think that we’d even consider trying to save 10% of our annual income now (plus employer contributions) when we need every penny we earn just to make it to our next paycheck. We’ll save later, but later comes and goes all of a sudden we’re 35, 40, 45 making the same excuses not to save.

I am right there with you, when I was 20 and just starting my career at the Principal Financial Group®, I was putting myself through college at night and raising a child on my own.  Retirement and saving were the furthest things from my mind.  I contributed the bare minimum and told myself that I’d save more when I was done paying daycare, when I was done with college, when I made more money. The list went on and on. It was never the right time, but when is the right time? It wasn’t going to become a priority until I decided to make it one.

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Excuses. They are the assassins of motivation; motivation to take hold of your future, motivation to save for your retirement future and dreams. I had every excuse in the book as to why I wasn’t saving like I should be knowing full well that I’d bought those shoes I’d been eyeing, or the fancy dinner date that I just had to have with my husband because I was stressed and dang it, I DESERVED it!

Good gracious woman, wake up. I didn’t need to keep up with the Jones; I needed to take the steps now to become the Jones. I’m sure they didn’t get there living paycheck to paycheck!

It wasn’t until I sat down with a financial advisor, and he forced me to be honest with myself. There was no way I was going to retire by age 55 saving the bare minimum and buying shoes and fancy dinners.  It was a harsh slap of reality and one that I needed. Not only did he show me where I needed to cut back, but he showed me how much I’d missed by not saving and taking full advantage of my retirement plan benefits including the company match.

To see that figure on paper made my stomach turn. To see exactly how much my account could have been if I’d saved more, and spent less was such a wasted opportunity. It was like I’d just been throwing money away for the last 10 years. Money that I thought I “needed” and spent on who knows what.  Plus, I overlooked the value of my employer’s matching contributions by not taking full advantage of their match.  What I quickly realized is I’m going to really need so much more savings when I retire and no longer receive a weekly paycheck and benefits.

So what now? I SAVE, and yes SAVING is HARD, but it gets easier after the initial shock of your somewhat smaller paycheck wears off. It gets easier when you adjust to bringing your lunch or eating dinner at home. It gets easier when you wear one of the pairs of black heels that you already have instead of buying pair #50. It does get easier and it’s not too late to start.

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  • Aaron Friedman, National Practice Leader – Tax-Exempt, the Principal Financial Group, Princor Registered Representative

    Happy Birthday, Susan! It’s my birthday too, but rather than 30, I’m 50 this year. I too went through the same thought process and finally made the commitment around the time I was 28 or 29. I’ve been saving ever since, and I can tell you I don’t regret making that savings commitment for a second. For others, it’s not too late. Don’t put off the decision. Make that savings commitment now.