Am I the only person who from time to time, googles how much money should I have in my 401k by age X?
I honestly wish there was someone to tell me the answer to how much money I should be investing by a certain age. But truthfully, there is no answer- everyone is different, every situation is different. There is no “secret number” as to how much you should have in your bank every time you turn a year older. I do believe however that there are simple strategies that we can take to set ourselves up for financial success at each stage of life and the earlier that we start, the better.
In your teenage years, lets be honest, you are not thinking about saving for your future. Your current worries are about what car to buy or where you are going to grab your next bite to eat. You have all the time in the world to save, so why start now? I am sure that this is what 90% of teenagers nowadays are thinking (and can you blame them?) I wish someone had sat me down at the age of 18 and told me what the importance of saving early really meant. It could be the difference between tens of thousands of dollars in your bank account. A little investment at this age can add up (with compound interest) to a WHOLE LOT of money later. Do not hesitate to start a secret stash- you will be way head of the game later if you have this mindset now.
If you are a 20 something, like me, you are most likely focusing on school, your career and possibly marriage. At this age, I would encourage you to avoid debt at all costs. Try to pay in cash and only buy things that you need. Of course, have a little fun here and there- but keep your end goal in mind! I also would highly recommend starting to pay off your student loan debt NOW, if you can afford to do so. Don’t let the interest accrue daily to the point where you owe double the amount of where you started (yes, I know some people with this problem). You may also find yourself at the point in your life where you are considering moving out of your parents house and renting and/or purchasing a condo/house of your own. If you can set aside $200 a month from age 20 to age 30, you will have saved $24,000. This is a great start toward a great down payment. Lastly, open up a 401k- put aside whatever money that you are comfortable with. If your employer offers a match, take it (it’s free money!)
Now… fast forward- you just turned thirty. You are now shifting gear from focusing on yourself to the possibly of starting a family. It is important to try putting a little extra money aside each month towards an emergency fund. I would recommend having a safety net of around $10,000-$15,000 set aside in case of emergency. Hopefully at this point you have a place of your own or are looking into home ownership. Try to put down as much of a down payment as you can (while still keeping your Emergency Fund intact). The more money you can put down, the higher the chances of avoiding fees such as PMI. Believe me, I know it is hard to come up with a 20% down payment (I am with you). Try to think outside of the box. Is there someone who may be willing to help out financially? It will save you a lot of money in the long run if you can come up with more money now.
If you are reading this and you are in your forties, you already know that it’s time to buckle down. You are at the peak of your career; your kids are growing up and now is the time to start thinking about college costs. Have you set aside some money for them? Consider opening a 529 savings fund, if you haven’t already. Being that you have been saving for a while now, you should have a little bit more of a cushion in your bank account. Now is a good time to open a good growth stock mutual fund or Roth IRA. Try to contribute 10-15% of your household income into it. Retirement should be at the forefront of all financial decisions that you make from this point forward. My husband and I started on this step early. We opened our first Roth at age 25- again, the sooner the better!
Speed ahead. You are now fifty. Keep focused! Hopefully now you are investing the full 15% into your 401k and maxing out your Roth per year. You may be tempted to dip into your retirement savings, but hold off if you can- let that compound interest keep working for you. Now is the time to focus on paying off your mortgage faster.
60 onward. This is your time to relax, travel and enjoy all of what life has to offer. Hopefully you have saved up a large enough goose egg that you do not have to live paycheck to paycheck and can actually afford to give back. Have a little fun with your money, you earned it— literally. At this point, you might also consider purchasing long term care insurance. Prepare now for the care that you may need down the road.
You made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me. I hope that this article has helped provide you with a working guideline on how to be saving at different points in your life. Remember, the heart of investing is all about your attitude. No matter your age, it is never too late to start saving. The time is now and your future depends on it!