It’s not as catchy, but when it comes to retirement and the Millennial generation, age 73 could be the new normal.
Nerdwallet.com released a new study today that ran the numbers on how growing student debt will affect Millennials’ retirement plans. It’s not pretty.
Overall, student debt is approaching $1 trillion. With a “T.” Bringing that to an individual level, that means the median student debt of $23,300 will cost a student over $115,000 by retirement because of interest and lost saving potential.
This generation will spend the first 10 years or more of their careers (if they can get a job) paying off loans, with very little extra for long-term savings, which robs them of the opportunity to compound their wealth through dividends and interest over those years.
And the trend didn’t only affect graduates with modest incomes. The study painted a picture of three Millennial graduates, from struggling to well-off. Their projections showed that even well-off grads who had little debt and a high entry-level salary would have to delay retirement six years from the current average retirement age of 61. And if you had high debt plus a low salary? Well, since the average life expectancy is 84, you’d only have nine years of retirement — even with the help of Social Security.
However, it’s not a totally bleak picture. There are steps young people can take to avoid working into their geriatric years. NerdWallet has three tips to beat the odds:
Employer 401(k) Match
This study assumed that employers would match 401(k) contributions over a lifetime. It’s free money, so if your employer offers it, don’t leave that money on the table! If they don’t, your 401(k) is still a powerful tool because you aren’t taxed on your contributions, but you will have to contribute significantly more to reach your goals … which brings us to the next tip:
Save More in Retirement Accounts
Sounds simple — want more money later? Save more now. Unfortunately, the time when most people have the least spare cash — right after college, or even before that – is the time when saving and investing is the most powerful. When you’re young, the money you invest has a chance to compound on itself for years. And retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s have a tax-advantaged status that allows all of the money you put in to continue compounding without worrying about taxes — unless you’ve been actively trading in and out of stocks.
Invest in Index Funds
Opinions differ on whether strict indexing is the way to go, but it’s definitely one of the easiest ways to invest. An index fund tracks an index like the S&P 500, the Nasdaq, or any number of specialized indices, like tech stocks, or food stocks, or stocks from a particular country. There are hundreds of indices out there, and even more mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track them. The least expensive way to index is with ETFs.
Bottom line? Because of rising tuition costs and rising student debt, Millennials either have to accept a working retirement, or plan ahead so they’re not stuck paying for it later.
As of this writing, Carla Lake did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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