It is never too early to start saving for retirement.
That does not, however, mean that the average person begins early. Most American have a decidedly anemic investment portfolio. This article will give you some basic tips on retirement investing and on life style management so that your money grows well and you know how to spend it wisely.
Things You Will Need1. An income. If you do not have some sort of income stream, you cannot very well set any of it aside for retirement. Your income needs to be enough to cover your monthly living expenses with at least 10% left for retirement savings.
2. A Budget. In order to know if you have enough for monthly expenses, you have to know what your monthly expenses are! And a budget will do that for you. Once you have listed out expenses, you can tweak them to find 10% for savings.
3. No debt. You need to have all of your dollars working for you. Sending a chunk of your income out into the world to make other people's wealth grow is not a good plan. How much credit card debt do you have? How much of your monthly income goes to housing? To a car payment? Your budget can help you work out a debt reduction plan.
4. A finely honed sense of delayed gratification. Yes, in order to pay down your debt and get your financial house in order, you will spend a few years practicing the art of delayed gratification.
You have to have a decent income to match your expenses. If you have a mortgage, a car payment and a need to eat, you have to make enough money to allow for that. Not to get all preachy, but if you want a low-stress career, or if you don't want a career at all, that is fine -- you just need to make sure your life style fits your income stream. You cannot live beyond your means and in fact, to save for retirement, you need to live below, well below, your means.
You have to make a budget. And it is not as hard as you fear it is. Gather up all of your monthly bills. Rent/mortgage, grocery, gas, electricity, credit card payments, etc. On a sheet of paper, write down the monthly amounts. Now, remake the list going from top priority to bottom priority. A top priority would be housing; a bottom priority would be bi-weekly massages. Add the expenses up. Now, how much income do you actually have? Is it enough to cover everything? Are you sure? Is the credit card bill creeping up a bit every month because you use it to make up for a shortfall? We need to start cutting the bottom priorities until we get to a place where we have 10% left over in the budget. For now that 10% will be used to pay off your debt.
Step 3Debt Free
In order to really be in a place to build wealth, you have to have your money working for you. This means doing the work of paying off debt. The 10% that we've trimmed from the budget will be your tool. We will use the debt reduction tool called the "Debt Snowball." Take your credit card bills, car payment and any other debt that is not your house. Order them from smallest to largest. Add the 10% from your income to the minimum payment on the smallest debt. Do this every month. When it is paid off, take the minimum payment amount plus the 10% and apply it to your next lowest bill. When that one is paid off, you take the Snowball and add that payment and attack the next bill. Your debt snowball grows with every debt you pay off. It really works.
Step 4Delayed Gratification
It will take discipline to seriously save for retirement. It is not for wimps, but the end result is amazing. You will have money in the bank, working for you; you will have a robust investment portfolio. Best of all, you will have control over your own life. In order to develop the discipline you need to work the debt snowball and become debt free, you should write down some clearly defined goals. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years? Do you wish you could go back to school? Travel the world? Help end poverty? If you are not saddled with debt, shackled to a job you hate to pay for a life style you don't enjoy, you could do those things! You can do those things. Focus on them when you feel your resolve weakening. Focus on the future.
Getting out of debt and saving for retirement is not rocket science. You do not need to read a bunch of books or buy a bunch of software. All you need is your own will to succeed. It will take you, on average, 2.5 years to pay off debt. Another 4-6 years to payoff a house mortgage. So, in less than 10 years, you are completely debt free and all of your income can be used to build wealth and create the life you want to be living.
Tips & Warnings1. Give your self a little bit of "mad money" each month. Set aside, say $10 a month to have a couple of lattes, or a movie night out. You will need these little splurges to help you stay on track for the long term.
2. Look seriously at your rent/mortgage and your car payment. Your housing should be no more than 25% of your income. Your car payment should be no more than 10% of your income. If these numbers are off, you will add years to your debt snowball plan. Do you need to downsize in housing or automobile? Do it!
3. You may fall off the wagon. It happens. Pick yourself up; dust yourself off; and get back on the plan. So you bought a big screen TV? It's not the end of the world. Make that your priority in payment and be done with it! Now you fully own a big screen TV and you can move on. Don't kick yourself. Pay it off and get back on track.