Tax day is less than a week away, and if you're like me, you aren't looking forward to it. However, there is some good news. You can still take advantage of something that could cut your tax bill: making your 2014 IRA contribution.
That's right: Even though 2014 has come and gone, the IRS allows individuals up until the income tax filing deadline on April 15 to make contributions to the prior year's IRA limit. If you haven't taken advantage of this opportunity, you still have time. The thing is, saving on your 2014 taxes is only one reason to fund your 2014 contribution, and it might be the least important one.
Let's take a closer look at several insights from Ken Hevert, senior vice president of personal and small-business retirement products at Fidelity, about how the landscape is changing, and why you'd better fund your IRA before tax day.
It's a changing retirement landscape: Will you be ready?
People are living longer, and everyone has a certain quality of life he or she wants. But Social Security won't cover everything, and pensions are a thing of the past. Hevert had the following to say on the topic.
It's unprecedented what the next generation of retirees is going to be faced with. Longer retirements; the role of real estate [following the housing crisis] is in question; pensions are less prominent. How can we help people prepare themselves for a longer retirement that aligns with their desired lifestyle is a big focus. ... The way [non-retired] people are thinking about retirement is very different than current retirees. Many want to continue to work, continue to add value and generate some income. So the demographic trends, we believe, are going to generate the demand for more financial services related to being self-employed or running a small business.
The bottom line is that every dollar you put toward retirement today will increase your chances of having the retirement you want to have.
Younger workers saving more?
According to what Fidelity is seeing, younger workers are saving more. And that's a great sign. The reality is, many millennials seem to have learned a hard lesson from the recent recession, with many still trying to make up for lost time in the workplace.
If it's an unprecedented time for those nearing retirement, it's also an unprecedented time for younger investors. While we are seeing older investors turbocharge their saving and investing, we are seeing similar activity from the millennial generation. Kind of a "barbell" of investors at the older and younger ends ramping up their investing.
When asked about this point, Hevert said that much of what he's hearing from younger investors is that they're also learning from watching their parents struggle with money and savings and want to avoid the same experience. As he put it, "They are putting their money where their mouths are."
$5 grand today, or $50 grand tomorrow?
It's easy to say, "It's only $5,500. I can make that up in a few years." Not so fast. Says Hevert:
Time, the type of account you use, and how you invest the money are the three levers you can really take advantage of. If you use the historical annual rate of return, tax-deferred, a $5,500 one-time contribution could grow to between $50,000 and $60,000 in 30 years. There's the cost. When you stop working, where can you go to get an extra 55,000 bucks? That's the trade-off that people need to be thinking about.
Don't have an IRA? Go here to find the one that's right for you.
Don't make this mistake
Getting the contribution in the account is a start, but that's all it is. As Hevert told me: "A lot of times people think, 'I did a good thing. I made my contribution before the deadline, so I can move on to other things.' But not everybody gets that money invested." It gets back to what he called the "three levers" investors can pull to maximize their returns: time, the right account, and how you invest the money. Here's what it can look like over 30 years if you don't bother investing the money but instead leave it in savings or a certificate of deposit, yielding 2%:
Getting ahead of the retirement game
If you're reading this, you have an even chance at living to 80 or beyond, and as the preceding chart shows, taking advantage of time to let your money compound is about the biggest advantage you have. Every year you put it off, it'll cost you more and more money to make up for the times you didn't make your contributions. Unless you have a rich uncle or a trust fund, you should take advantage of every opportunity you have to prepare for the future.
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