By Michal J Lodziana, Opinion Editor
“Who cares about retirement? I’m young… why should I have to worry about that?” It amazes me how often I hear such words uttered from the mouths of my fellow millennials. Planning for retirement is becoming increasingly difficult in this country, and it’s plainly obvious that many Americans are grossly underprepared. Don’t believe me?
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports that currently, “nearly half of families have no retirement account savings at all”. This is alarming considering that traditional retirement income sources, such as pension plans and social security, are rapidly being phased out.
US news reveals that from 1998 to 2013, the number of Fortune 500 companies offering pension plans dropped by 86 percent. And social security? Don’t depend on that supplemental form of income either. CNN reports that Social Security is expected to become insolvent by 2034.
While things initially look rather bleak for our generation, the good news is that time is on our side. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we have ample time to recognize that traditional retirement plans are failing.
We can no longer rely solely on the companies we work for or on the government to help us with retirement: we must take the reins of retirement into our own hands.
To help better understand how we can all plan for our own retirements, I reached out to Seton Hall professor Elven Riley. Riley teaches for the Stillman School of Business and I am currently a student in his Personal Money Management course. He had this to say:
“The Department of Labor (DOL) has recently addressed making corporate retirement plans safer for the employee. DOL now empowers companies to advocate for their employees with the plan provider. Too many employees and companies no longer trust these plans and fail to participate. If you are lucky and work for a company with a matching plan, it is just crazy not to capture this free money. So I encourage you to do so.”
Now listen, I get that many of us, myself included, have varying amounts of student loans. However, that does not give us an excuse to punish our “future” selves by ignoring the concept of retirement altogether. I don’t want to scold you; I want you to help your “future” self.
Start with baby steps. If you haven’t yet paid off your debts, focus on tackling them first and don’t fret. Recognize your own individual situation and at least figure out when you will open your first Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Once you have paid off your debts and are ready to begin contributing, determine a reasonable percentage of your income which you can contribute to retirement.
Professor Riley suggests, “Don’t guess; plan. Your 20s is about first paying off your debt, be it a school loan or a car loan, followed by building some working capital (also called savings). Most of the developed world views 10 percent savings as the minimum healthy savings rate.”
With a little planning and self-discipline, you will successfully tackle retirement and plan for your own future. No longer will you need to feel helplessly dependent on another entity. Instead, you will be able to sleep soundly at night knowing you are prepared.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 22nd print edition.
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