Nearly one in three Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement. Experts generally recommend trying to accumulate at least $1 million, which gets more and more difficult the longer you put off getting started. And still, an alarming number of adults think saving for retirement can wait.
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Student-loan provider Navient conducted a national Money Under 35 study of more than 3,000 adults, aged 22 to 35. It reports that only three in 10 respondents are saving for retirement, and that almost four in 10 — including 45 percent of men and 30 percent of women, and even 35 percent of those who are 34 or 35 years old — believe they can safely put it off.
Money Under 35: How many young people are saving for retirement
Short-term savings goals aren’t the only thing standing in the way, though. Stagnant wages and increasing housing costs make it difficult to save, too, according to a recent study from GOBankingRates.
And while Navient says “student debt is not preventing young adults with a degree from saving for retirement,” other research has shown that student debt does indeed keep young people from saving: Those with debt have less in their 401(k)s and, at age 30, have significantly less put away for retirement. Navient acknowledges that those with a bachelor’s “who paid off their student loans have saved twice as much as those who are working on repayment,” $47,297 versus $25,301, respectively.
Still, Navient reports that 45 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree are saving. That’s compared with 38 percent of advanced degree holders, 31 percent of associate degree holders and 25 percent of young adults who do not have a degree at all.
Money Under 35: Retirement savings trends based on education level
Overall, Navient finds, the average amount saved last year by those are saving was $32,818, down $4,800 from 2016.
“Many millennials just starting out may struggle to balance paying down debts and saving money, especially for retirement,” says Julie Wilson, head of research for Navient. “Our research explores how these trade-offs affect their financial health in the short term.”
It helps to have a plan in place, like a 401(k): “Young adults with access to an employer 401(K) match program are nearly twice as likely to save for retirement,” says Navient. In fact, those whose “employers offer a 401(k) plan have an average of $32,851 saved for retirement, nearly 75 percent more than those who don’t.”
It also helps to make saving a habit as early as you can. Lauryn Williams, who founded her own financial-planning company, suggests you start to save at age 19.
“Once you get in college, that first year, get settled, but then also get saving,” she tells Bankrate. “Automate that saving from the very beginning, create that habit and you’ll finish college with a little nest egg for yourself and a little nest egg for retirement.”
Starting to save before you hit 20 isn’t possible for everyone. Your scenario may be different, and “whether reaching a milestone at a certain age is realistic depends on your own personal circumstances,” says Bankrate. The most important thing to consider is “how much money you need to save in order to accomplish your financial goals according to your timeline.”
If you’re looking to put away more, start by re-evaluating how you spend or putting away small amounts of money with each paycheck. If you set a realistic goal and are proactive about reaching it, you’re more likely to succeed.
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