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A Penny Saved: Millennials and Retirement Savings

Penny pinching retirement savings

Saving for retirement looks a lot different now than it did 10, 20, or 30 years ago. While many baby boomers can depend on a pension from their employer to help them enjoy their golden years, the idea of a pension is a myth for many millennials, or those born between 1980 and 1999. Although retirement may be decades away for millennials, some fear that no matter how much they scrimp and how many pennies they pinch, they won’t have enough retirement savings. While the deck might seem stacked against them, there are a few things millennials can do to ease their retirement fears.

Missing the Match

While your employer might not offer a pension, it might offer a 401(k) and it might match the retirement savings you put into the 401(k), up to a certain percent. The problem for a lot of millennials is that they aren’t taking advantage of that employer match, as they aren’t staying at jobs for long enough. In many cases, a person has to work with a company for a set amount of time before he or she becomes “vested,” meaning he or she gets to keep any matching funds from the employer. A 2014 survey from Fidelity Investments found that aproximately 50 percent of millennials left their jobs before becoming vested, losing up to a quarter of their retirement savings, or an average of $1,400 per job.

Unless your job is truly awful, it’s financially worth it to stick around until you’re vested and to contribute the maximum amount your employer will match to your 401(k). $1,400 might not seem like much money, but the Fidelity survey noted that by the time a person retires, there’s a chance for that amount to climb to more than $10,000.

More and More Debt

Debt is another roadblock standing between millennials and their retirement savings. How can you expect to save for something that’s 30 or 40 years in the future, when you have debts that needed to be paid yesterday? Student loan debt is one of the more common debts millennials have. The Project on Student Debt found that 70 percent of students who graduated in 2013 had some type of loan, and the average amount of the loan, per student, was more than $28,000.

If your debt, whether it’s student debt or credit card debt, is keeping you from moving forward, there are ways to get help. You might qualify for an income based repayment plan, which can make your debt payments more manageable each month. If it’s credit card debt that’s getting you down, working with a non-profit credit counselor can allow you to make a plan to reduce your debt and to start saving for the future.

Uneasy Employment

It’s not just a lack of pension that’s getting in the way of millennial’s retirement, it’s an uncertain employment landscape, too. Millennials have higher rates of unemployment than older generations. If they do have work, it might not offer a retirement account. While limited job options can make the situation feel hopeless, there are some solutions. If you have any earned income, you can open an individual retirement account and contribute to it.

Saving for retirement might be more of a challenge now than before. But, as long as you keep at it, and contribute what you can, when you can, you are making a dent in your retirement. Working with a financial counselor or adviser can help you figure out the path to take to pay off your debts and save for the future.

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