Almost the second we start working, we’re told we need to prepare for when we’re ready to stop. 401Ks, IRAs, and contribution matching all becomes part of regular conversation, often before we’ve even made our first student loan payments.
The idea of a loaded retirement fund is nice, but the fact of the matter is that once someone enters the workforce they’re likely looking at near five decades of having to take care of their financial needs before retirement comes. So what’s more important than starting retirement savings right away?
You’ve Got Debt
Odds are better than not that if you’re an American reading this article, you’ve got at least some credit card debt. If you’re under the age of around 30, you’ve probably got a lot of student loan debt on top other forms of debt.
The thing is, debt doesn’t go away just because you’re done working. In fact, student loan debt is almost impossible to discharge no matter what you do - even bankruptcy. Living on a fixed income is only going to make paying down any residual debts far more difficult. Retiring with debt could very quickly turn into not staying in retirement at all, which is why paying down debt is every bit as crucial as building savings for later in life.
You Have Other Priorities
There are a lot of milestones that are going to come around in life, and they could come with a cost. Perhaps you’re determined to own your own place. Maybe you want to start a family. Maybe you choose to extend your education by pursuing a Master’s or professional degree. Maybe you even got a career opportunity that’s taking you to a totally new place.
Whatever your ambitions, whatever your life choices, they’re awesome - just like you. They’re also things worth supporting while you’re able to support them. Saving for retirement shouldn’t prevent you from making moves that will let you save better in the future (career changes and continued education), and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from doing something as major as starting a family, if you’re so inclined.
Other voices from other people may tell you differently, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to make your choices, and if that’s putting off savings now to get that professional degree that will let you save a lot more later, that’s a completely valid choice. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
You’re Building Your Career
Not everyone will have a six figure job to start. In fact, many recent grads would be elated to see a $25,000 annual salary. If you’re at the beginning of your career, there’s no shame in living a bit more modestly and foregoing some savings to bolster your portfolio, your reputation, or your skills.
You’re not going to stay in your first job for too long. Either you’ll move up in your company or find a new opportunity. While you’re in that transitional phase between job and career, retirement savings may not be feasible, and that’s totally fine. The idea of the short-term gigs is that they get you to a better place where you can accomplish more of your goals. You can adjust your retirement plan as your means change.