Nobody necessarily wants to save for retirement, so it's easy to put it off for another day. The problem with that is tomorrow turns into next month, which turns into never. Then, before you know it, you've reached retirement age with next to nothing saved.
Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. Eight-five percent of Americans know they need to be doing more to save for retirement, according to a survey from Capital Group, so most people realize they're not doing enough -- it's just the part where they actually need to save that's holding them back.
But making excuses about why you can't save will only hurt you in the long run. Even if your intentions are good and you really do plan on saving in the future, if you don't start now, you could be setting yourself up for financial failure. To do everything you can to ensure you're on the right track to retirement, avoid these three common excuses:
1. You're waiting until you make more money to start saving
It's not hard to fall into the trap of thinking that if you're living paycheck to paycheck, you can't afford to save for retirement. You tell yourself that once you get that raise or find a new job with a higher salary, you'll make up for it by saving more then. But sometimes it's actually more beneficial to save less over a longer period than more in a shorter one.
For example, say you're 30 years old, you don't currently have any retirement savings, and you can afford to save only $100 per month right now. You think that's not enough to make a noticeable difference, so you consider holding off saving for 10 years, at which time you'd start saving $200 per month. Assuming you're earning a 7% annual rate of return on your investments, here's what you'd have over time:
|Age||Total Savings When Starting at Age 30 (Saving $100/Month)||Total Savings When Starting at Age 40 (Saving $200/Month)|
So even if you double your monthly contributions, you still won't be able to make up for the time you weren't saving anything.
Also, you can always increase your contributions later when you do start making more money. Just because you can save only $100 per month now doesn't (and shouldn't) mean you can save only $100 per month for the rest of your life. While saving only a few dollars each month won't be enough on its own to prepare you for retirement, it does create a solid foundation for when you're able to save more down the road.
2. You have too much debt to save for retirement
Roughly 80% of baby boomers and Gen Xers are currently in debt, according to financial services company Comet. And of those who are carrying debt, the average baby boomer owes around $186,000 (which includes mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit cards, etc.), while Gen Xers have balances of around $226,000.
Those can be scary numbers, and it makes sense that people may think they can't save for retirement until they pay down their debts. However, it can take a lifetime (or at least a few decades) to pay off all your debt, so that means you may never get around to saving for retirement.
While you can't put off your debt payments (unless you want debt collectors knocking at your door), you can take a strategic approach to pay down your debt and save for retirement at the same time. Of all the different types of debt, credit card debt is some of the most toxic, with double-digit interest rates. So if you have some extra money at the end of the month, it's a good idea to put some of it toward credit card debt and the rest toward retirement. Because while it is important to pay down your debt quickly before it racks up thousands of dollars in interest, the longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the harder it will be to catch up.
For example, say it takes you 15 years to pay off your debt. If you wait until after that debt is completely paid off to start saving for retirement, you may need to double or even triple how much you're saving each month to catch up. Even if it takes a little longer to pay off your debt by splitting your extra money between two goals, it's a smarter move for the long term to contribute at least a little bit each month to your retirement fund as soon as possible.
3. You have plenty of time to save before retirement
Planning for retirement is playing the long game. So even if you still have several decades to go before you reach retirement age, you can never start too early.
Say you're 30 years old and you plan to retire at age 65. You have a long-term goal of saving at least $750,000 by that age, but you've got another 35 years to save, so you put it off. After all, you think, how much could waiting a few more years hurt?
However, waiting too long could make it significantly more challenging to reach your goal. In this scenario, you'd have to save around $450 per month, earning a 7% annual rate of return, to reach your $750,000 goal if you started saving at age 30. If you wait until age 35 to start saving, you'd need to save around $660 per month. Hold off until age 40 to get started, and you'll need to scrounge up close to $1,000 per month to make it to your goal.
This is thanks to the power of compound interest, which allows your savings to build exponentially as you let them grow. So while you may have plenty of time before you retire, it will be far easier to save more the earlier you start.
No matter how much time you have left before retirement or how much money you're earning, saving for your golden years is never easy (or particularly enjoyable). But it's only going to get more difficult the longer you put it off. The most painless way to save is to simply quit making excuses and start investing in your future.