About a month ago my aunt posted a picture on Facebook of my grandparents before going to prom night at their senior living community. They were each dressed up in their finest and they looked so happy to enjoy the evening with each other and their friends. I think this photo is a great representation of what retirement looks like to me. Retirement isn’t about buying a yacht, traveling, or even the ability to sleep in. It’s not about what you’ll buy or even what you’ll do, it’s about making the most of the time you have with the people you love.
As a thirty-year old, there isn’t much that I know about my retirement at this point. I don’t have a clear idea of when I’ll retire or even a precise sense of how much money I’ll need, but I do know there will be a time when I’m no longer able to work and I want the freedom to be able to leave the work force when I’m ready. Saving for retirement today gives me the choice to transition out of my full-time career on my own terms. It also affords me the ability to get the care that I need and spend the remaining years of my life with the people I love.
When you think about saving for retirement, I encourage you to find an image that aligns with your vision of retirement. For me, it’s my grandparents at the senior prom. For you, it might be sitting around a fireplace at your cabin surrounded by family. For others, it might look like a morning spent fishing or an uninterrupted day working in your garden. For some of you, you may not envision fully retiring – maybe retirement to you involves working part-time at a job that you are really passionate about or even exploring a new career. No matter what your specific vision looks like, remind yourself that saving for retirement today offers you the freedom to make choices in the future.
My grandparents saved diligently for retirement throughout my grandfather’s career and because of that they have enjoyed a long and varied retirement. They were able to travel, spend time with their kids, try out new hobbies, and work part-time by choice not necessity. They stayed in their own home and were able to make the transition to a senior living community when they were ready. They were able to afford a community that fit their needs where they can transition to different levels of service as they age.
I think most people delay saving for retirement because they see it as a mountain of money they could never hope to amass. I encourage you not to focus too hard on the specific amount that you need to save, instead dive right in even if you start with just a small amount.
Ready to get started? Here are a few tips:
· Find a savings vehicle: For most of us, we have a work retirement plan (i.e. – 401(k) or 403(b)) available to us. If you don’t, and you’re still earning income, you might start contributing to a Traditional or Roth IRA. Married but not working? Maximize your spouse’s employer plan or open a Spousal IRA that your spouse can contribute to on your behalf.
· Start with 1% and grow: I know it seems like a joke, but saving just 1% of your income can really add up overtime. In most cases, you won’t even notice the deduction in your paycheck. The key is to start early and increase your contribution by 1% each year until you reach your goal. Wondering how much that end goal should be? Check out this NerdWallet’s Retirement Calculator.
· Meet the match: Don’t leave free money on the table. If your employer offers to match your contribution, make sure you’re meeting that match or you have a plan to grow your contribution so you can meet it.
Tell me in the comments below: What’s your retirement image and how does that change how you save for it?