Chances are you want to retire someday. But if you are not saving enough today, you might have to delay retirement tomorrow.
In a recent GoBankingRates survey, respondents said saving for retirement was one of their biggest financial challenges. With so many immediate demands on your money, it can be hard to make setting aside funds for the future a priority. In fact, it’s much easier to come up with reasons not to save.
Here are nine common excuses to avoid saving for retirement. If you have been using any of them, it is time to stop — and to start making saving for retirement a top goal.
1. I Don’t Know Where to Start
Saving for retirement is complicated, with so many different account and investment options. At least, that is how some people feel. As a result, they avoid saving for retirement, said Brandon Ross, managing director of United Capital Financial Advisers.
About half of millennials and nearly 40 percent of Generation X feel they do not know what their best investment options are, according to a survey by Schwab Retirement Plan Services. Meanwhile, just 45 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Generation X say they know how much they need to save for a comfortable retirement.
The first place to start saving for retirement is in a workplace retirement account — likely a 401k, 403b or 457 plan. If you do not have access to a plan at work or are self-employed, set up your own account — such as an IRA, SEP or solo 401k — and make contributions with each paycheck.
Aim to set aside 15 percent of your annual pay, said John Sweeney, executive vice president of retirement and investing strategies at Fidelity Investments. If you cannot save that much, contribute at least enough to get the full matching contribution from your employer, if it offers a match.
When choosing investments, “target-date funds are the easiest way to get started,” Sweeney said. These funds hold more aggressive investments when you are younger, then shift to more conservative investments as you near retirement.
Related: 42 Ways to Save For Retirement
2. I Have Plenty of Time to Save
It is easy to assume that saving does not have to be a priority if you are decades away from retirement. Time is on your side, right?
But that is the thing: Time truly is on your side, but only when you start saving at a young age. That is because the power of compounding makes it easier to build a big nest egg even if you do not set aside much each month. The longer you wait to start saving, the harder it will be to have enough for a comfortable retirement.
“More than anything, people when they’re younger don’t feel that they’re going to be older,” Ross said. “They don’t realize how bad they’re hurting themselves by not starting early.”
If you invest $5,000 each year starting at age 22 and earn a 6 percent rate of return, you will have $720,292 by age 60, Ross said. However, if you wait until you are 40 to start saving $5,000 a year and earn the same rate of return, you will have only $194,963 at age 60.
3. I Don’t Earn Enough
If you are just starting out, you might assume that your salary is not big enough to cover all of your expenses, discretionary spending and retirement saving. Often, though, it is the lifestyle choices you make rather than the size of your paycheck that is limiting your ability to save for the future.
If your employer offered to pay you 85 percent less, you would likely learn to live on that income, Sweeney said. So if you set aside 15 percent of what you earn into a retirement savings account before you have a chance to spend it, you can build a lifestyle that fits within that remaining 85 percent of your income, he said.
This might mean choosing to have roommates rather than living on your own, taking public transportation or not going to happy hour every night. Making these choices so you can save even when your paycheck is small can mean you will actually have a choice about when you want to retire, instead of having to work your whole life.
4. I Have Too Much Student Loan Debt
More than one-third of millennials say they cannot set aside more money for retirement because they are still paying off student loans, according to the Schwab Retirement Plan Services survey. But Sweeney said you do not have to wait until your student loans are paid off to start saving for retirement.
Look into loan consolidation and refinancing programs so you can get a lower interest rate to cut your monthly payments, Sweeney said. That will free up more money to stash in savings. Learn about the Education Department’s Direct Loan Consolidation program for federal loans at the Federal Student Aid website, or explore your refinancing options with private companies.
5. I Have to Buy a Car
You have to get to work, so you need a car. At least, that is what Sweeney said he hears people say when they claim that buying a car is a bigger priority than retirement saving.
However, he pointed out that there are plenty of other ways to get around without your own car: walking, public transportation, ride sharing. Even if you do need a car, you do not have to buy an expensive new vehicle. An affordable used car might leave you with more cash in your budget each month to save for retirement.
6. I Need to Save for a House
Ross said that some people focus on saving for a home before saving for retirement. Homeownership is still a big part of the “American dream.” In fact, nearly two-thirds of adults view homeownership as either “an accomplishment to be proud of” or “a dream come true,” according to a survey by Wells Fargo. However, if you aspire to own a home, you likely dream of retiring someday, too.
In fact, you should start saving for retirement as soon as possible, then start socking away money for a home when you get to a financial position where you can afford to do both, Ross said. If necessary, look for ways to earn extra income and cut unnecessary expenses — rather than neglect your retirement account — to save for a down payment.
7. I Need to Save for My Kids’ College Education
Sometimes, people decide to fund their children’s college costs first because the education obligation arrives sooner than their own retirement, Sweeney said. In fact, nearly one-third of Gen Xers surveyed by Schwab said that they are not saving more for retirement because they want to save for their child’s education.
“That is a mistake, because you can’t take a loan or scholarship to pay for retirement,” Sweeney said. You might not want to burden your children with student loans. But Sweeney said that if you do not save for retirement, you will be a burden on your kids because you will have to rely on them for financial support.
8. It’s Not Worth It — I’ll Lose My Money
Stock market volatility can scare away would-be investors because they do not want to risk losing their money. Young adults are particularly wary because all they have seen is uncertainty, including the turn-of-the-century tech bubble, the recession and recent market gyrations, Ross said. “A lot of millennials view the stock market as going to Vegas,” he said.
But odds are you will see your investments in a retirement account grow over time, not disappear. “Over time, there is a true rate of return that will come from investing and dollar-cost averaging,” Ross said. The key is to contribute systematically — not just when it seems “safe” to invest. If you invest regularly, you will buy in at low prices whenever the market does fall. “It will pay off,” Ross said.
9. I Don’t Want to Sacrifice My Current Quality of Life
You are not alone if you question why you should make sacrifices now so you can save for the future. The Schwab survey found that 44 percent of millennials and 34 percent of Gen Xers are not saving more because they want to treat themselves to things like occasional dinners out and vacations.
“The majority of Americans think of the pleasure principle first rather than what the future can hold,” Ross said. However, he adds that as people grow older, “there will come a time when you live in regret for not saving.”
You do not have to give up everything you enjoy now, though, Ross said. The key is to make your retirement account contribution part of your necessary expenditures in your budget — along with your bills, debt payments and mortgage or rent. “Then, whatever you have left, you should go and enjoy because life is too short,” Ross said.
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