Picture this: the year is 2050, and you’re surrounded with grandchildren. You’re the “cool grandparent,” though. The one who slides money under the table to their grandchildren when the parents aren’t looking, and showers them with sugary treats that have them bouncing off the walls. You are financially comfortable, retired early and get to travel whenever you’d like, bringing back souvenirs from your most recent adventure. Sounds like a pretty ideal lifestyle, doesn’t it?
To have a future as fruitful as that, you need to plan now.
Even if grandchildren or traveling is not on your bucket list, everyone wants to be comfortable enough to enjoy their later years. Pinching pennies and living paycheck-to-paycheck is no way to get by, especially if you have a habit of spending lavishly.
You can’t work forever — it’s physically impossible. At some point, you are going to have to retire, and at that point, you need to have set yourself up to comfortably hang up the “employed” ball cap and live happily without the stress of whether or not you will have enough money to get by.
Now, this may just be a type A mentality, but planning for the future is crucial, and honestly it is never too early to start. Coming from a 21-year-old college student, it may sound crazy that retirement is even a topic of conversation, but being a member of the population that is extremely affected by student loan debt, now is the perfect time to start.
To retire, blocks of money must be set aside that will be your primary source of income for the remainder of your lifetime. To create a retirement fund, there needs to be extra money left after all of your bills are paid. To have extra money left over, you must be employed. For many, employment correlates to a college degree, but the true correlation is between salary and higher education.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the more you learn, the more you earn,” showing that the higher level of education you obtain, the higher your income will be. More specifically, it shows that those with doctoral or professional degrees earn nearly three times more than those who failed to graduate from high school. Education matters, but with education comes a hefty price tag.
This is where student loans come back to haunt you. One day, when you are finally finished with your education, you’re going to have to pay back your student loans. A degree is something you should work for because it differentiates you from the crowd, but is college extremely overpriced? Yes. In the U.S., there are nearly $1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt. That massive number in itself shows that there are millions of people who are affected tremendously by monthly payments, making saving that much harder.
Fast forward through college — you’re now five years out and you have gotten into the routine of paying bills. You are comfortable in your current place of employment and find yourself in a position where you can afford to spend a little. Should you get a house? Should you buy a dog? Should you take a trip? These are all things that you may actually be considering at that point in your life. At these times, you should try your best to focus on your future.
This is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy your life while you are young. Don’t be frugal to a fault, but when you first have a little extra spending money, try to put it away. Spending lavishly adds up. To put things in perspective, if you were to buy a cup of coffee five days a week, every week, by the end of the year you would have spent $1,200 on coffee alone. That is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you’re retired and wish you had a little extra cash.
Instead of getting daily coffee, take that extra money you would save and put it away. Because of compound interest, if you invest earlier and continue to put money into a savings account, you will set yourself up for a comfortable lifestyle come age 60.
Time is your absolute best friend when it comes to saving money. The earlier you invest, the longer time frame you give the money to accrue compound interest. You don’t want to be retired and with grandchildren but unable to live comfortably. You are going to want to enjoy your retired years, so start now. Even if you put $20 away each week, it will add up, and you will be thankful you didn’t buy that cup of coffee.