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Wondering about the best time to start retirement planning? The answer is now! Whether you’re in your 20s or your 60s, it’s never too early (or too late) to start saving for retirement, even if it seems far away. 

The earlier you start saving for retirement, the more your money will work for you in the long run. With time on your side, you can start building good financial habits earlier and earn compounded savings that make your dollar stretch further. 

If you’re just starting out in your retirement journey, here are our three recommendations for how to start planning for retirement right now.

Create A Debt Repayment Plan

We’ve heard many people say that they can’t start saving for retirement until their student loans or car loan is paid off. The truth is: Having debt doesn’t mean you have to hold off on saving for retirement. 

Read the 7 Money Myths You Might Believe (& Should Forget Immediately).

But you also shouldn’t be blindly paying toward your debt either. The sooner you take control of your debt, the sooner you’ll be on the path toward financial security. Your debt-repayment plan will also help you understand how much you have leftover to put into a retirement plan.

There are two main types of debt repayment plans that people choose: The avalanche method and the snowball method. With the avalanche method, you will pay off the ones with the highest interest rates first. The snowball method, on the other hand, has you pay off the smallest debts first and work your way up to the big ones. 

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of plans and which one makes sense for your situation depends on many factors. The best thing you can do is pick one and stick with it, which will help you prioritize your debts in a way that makes sense to you. 

Creating a debt repayment plan in tandem with creating a retirement savings plan is a great way to take control of your finances now and feel confident as you move forward to a better financial future. 

Planning for retirement

Utilize Your Employer-Sponsored Plan

There are two types of retirement savings plans that employers typically offer: 401(k)s and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). You should contribute to one or both if they’re available to you. 

Here’s the main difference between a 401(k) and an HSA when it comes to saving for retirement:

401(k)

A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored investment account that works within the stock market. What you pay into your retirement account is taken out directly from your paycheck each pay period before taxes and the money will not be taxed until you start to withdraw it in retirement. There are requirements for how much you have to withdraw every year, based on how much you have saved, which will dictate how much you pay in taxes. 

When establishing your contributions, your first goal should be to max out your company’s match program (where they provide a percentage or total contribution up to a certain amount) if they have one. This is essentially free money so you should make sure to capitalize on it! After that, how much you put in per paycheck is up to you and your savings goals. 

If you want a more personalized approach to retirement savings, contact us about a coaching session. We can help recommend a scalable savings goal based on your current salary and future plans. 

HSA

An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account that works in conjunction with high-deductible health plans. Unlike a 401(k), HSAs are not taxed when withdrawals are made—but there are limits to how HSAs can be used. HSAs are only able to be used for qualified medical expenses, like glasses, dental visits, acupuncture, and more. 

The good news is that HSAs do not require you to begin withdrawing funds at a certain age and the balance will carry over with you year after year from job to job. 

Fidelity Investments calculates that, for couples who are both 65 years old, the 2018 average cost of healthcare during retirement was $280,000. Having an HSA when you retire is a great way to help offset these costs without relying on your 401(k) or other investments.

If you have any questions about what types of plans your company offers, we highly recommend setting up an appointment with your Human Resources department. These people are experts of your specific benefits and offer useful insights you may have otherwise missed.

working together on a plan

Seek Advice From An Expert

Financial planning ranges from simple to complex—and where you fall within that range depends on your financial goals. That being said: Pretty much every individual can benefit from working with a professional financial planner or advisor. 

If you’re just starting out on your retirement planning journey, having someone on your side that knows the ins and outs of finances can be extremely valuable. They can help you make sure you know the basics and are set up to succeed in the future.

Because the truth is, improperly planning in your younger years can really put you back in the future. 

And while we understand that sometimes the cost can be an obstacle for many individuals, we recommend at least setting up an initial consultation with an advisor or enroll in an education course that teaches you the fundamentals. 

Even if you think you understand every facet of retirement planning, there’s always more to learn! Do you already know when to draw Social Security benefits or how to take your distributions? Have you considered how to stay positive and happy throughout retirement? 

An advisor or financial coach can help you map out your priorities when it comes to your finances, including how much to save for retirement. 

Our approach to retirement is more than just finances: it’s a well-rounded discussion about what’s important to you. In our Richer Retirement course, we discuss fulfillment, purpose, and passion in regards to financial planning to help you create a plan that keeps you happy and content through retirement and beyond.