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What Should Your Savings Goals Be?

July 07, 2021

When you’re young and just starting out, retirement seems so far away. There are more pressing things to spend your money on rather than focusing on your savings goals. Then you find the love of your life, maybe buy a house and start a family. Before you know it, your kids are looking at colleges, and, “suddenly,” retirement seems to have snuck up on you. Hopefully, you have not encountered too many of life’s obstacles and unforeseen expenses that can often derail a good savings plan. Life happens, though.

Perhaps you feel like your nest egg is growing too slowly. That’s okay; time and perseverance will get you where you want to be. Or perhaps you’re on the opposite end, and you’re not sure if you’ve saved enough.

Regardless of where you are in saving for retirement, one of the best ways to save is to set up small savings goals to help you feel that you are making progress along the way. Hitting the small goals can keep you going, especially when finances are tough or when something comes along to derail your plans.

Retirement Savings Tips for the Ages

No matter what your age, it is never too late - or too early - to start saving for retirement. Here are a few age-based savings tips to get you - or keep you- going.

Early 20s

If you are in your early twenties, there is a good chance that you are a recent college graduate with some debt and that you are in an entry-level position. Rent and basic living expenses are probably eating up the bulk of your paycheck, leaving you with little to save.

Your first savings goal should be to have a fully-funded emergency fund to help cover any unexpected expenses. I recommend saving enough to pay your living expenses for at least three months. It is often an emergency that wipes out a savings account, so saving for this first will make a big difference.

The next step is getting proper health insurance. Investing in your health early on will pay off later in life. Regular exercise and checkups are just as important as your bank balance.

Lastly, this is the time to take advantage of any employer-offered 401(k) plan or employer match programs. I suggest contributing enough to receive the maximum matching from your employer and follow the out-of-sight, out-of-mind method - you won’t miss that little bit taken out each paycheck. The earlier you start, the longer your investments have to grow.

SEE ALSO: Five Reasons Retirement Planning is Different for Women

Early 30s

In your thirties, you have been working for some time, and hopefully, you’ve moved up in wages. You might now be married, have a family, or are looking to buy a home. While your twenties were about finding stability, your thirties have to now be about looking further ahead.

The first order of business is getting rid of your debt, especially student loans and credit cards. Typically, these are high-interest, aggressive debts that will only grow the longer you make only the minimum payments. It may be time to seek outside help, like speaking to a debt specialist or using an online program.

If you are thinking about buying a house, you will also want to be saving for a down payment. Ideally, you want to have 10-20% to put down. If you have children, setting up 529 plans to help save for their education may also be helpful, as that money grows tax-free and is earmarked specifically for schooling. This is also the time to draft up a will and get a life insurance policy, especially if you have dependents. By this time, you should also be saving 10-15% of your annual income.

Early 40s

By your forties, you should be even more established in your life and career, and this is a critical decade for long-term savings. Some good goals are to eliminate any debt that isn’t tied to a mortgage. Start planning for how you will pay for your children’s college education. Ideally, you started 529 plans in your thirties (see above) and have been regularly putting money away.

It may make more sense for your children to take out their own loans, especially if you are coming late to the savings game or are trying to pay off debts. This is the time to look over your finances, getting serious about college expenses, and talking to your children about what you can afford and what their expectations for assistance from you should be. It’s important to be honest and realistic with them. By this time, you should also have twice your annual income saved, in addition to a separate emergency fund.

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