Retirement #LifeHacks for Millennials

By Sasha Grabenstetter, Consumer Economics Educator at the University of Illinois Extension. Follow her on Twitter @Pennies4Pigs!

As a young Millennial, retirement in my mind seems far away. All too often extra expenses get in the way of saving for retirement.

I’m currently in the accumulation phase of my life. I want to gather experiences with my friends and family, find success at work and, of course, use my hard earned cash to purchase things that I've wanted for a long time. The last thing I want to think about is retirement - especially after paying my student loan payment. With more pressure on individuals to save for themselves, now, more than ever, Millennials have to consider saving for retirement. Here are some handy lifehacks to help our generation prepare:

LifeHack #1 – Own Your Future Retirement

Think of your future self. Consider your current values, beliefs, and goals for just a moment. Then ask yourself the following question from George Kinder, the Father of Life Planning:  “Imagine that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything?” Answering this question now can help you begin to create the picture of what the life you want to build in retirement looks like. Whether it’s on the beach, in the middle of a forest, or surrounded by friends and family, retirement is what you make it. The future you wants to experience life just as much as present you does, but without saving for it - future you may be left out in the cold.   

LifeHack #2 – Make Saving More Fun

Who wants to think about retirement when you have a friend’s birthday or a weekend getaway planned? You’d rather (insert any other entertaining thing here). Saving can seem like a chore. But how do you make a chore easier? You make it into a game. You can challenge yourself to save every five-dollar bill you find for six months. Buy a huge piggy bank and see how long it takes you to fill it up. Set up an online automatic transfer to send your money into a secret special savings account. Whatever it may be, make savings fun. Do you remember what it feels like to put on an old coat and find an extra twenty dollars? It feels awesome. Try to make saving for the future feel like that.

LifeHack #3 – Enjoy Now AND Later

When people think about saving, they often think they have to sacrifice today for tomorrow. Most of the time that sacrifice is their leftover “fun” money for experiences. When starting to save, take small steps. For example: Instead of going on a week-long vacation to Mexico, maybe this year you have 3-4 weekend getaways to nearby towns you want to explore. As a replacement for going out to eat four times a month, maybe you only eat out two times. Don’t cut excitement from your life, but consider taking a small step in reducing the expense. That way, whatever extra money is left over you can save towards future goals like retirement.

For Millennials, the only way to make sure your retirement is set the way you want it is to save for yourself, whether it’s through your employer’s 401(k), an individual retirement account (IRA), or your giant piggy bank. Focus on the life you want to have now and in the future. Try to make savings more fun, make it a game to fill that piggy bank or max out your IRA contribution. Lastly, just because you’re saving for retirement doesn't mean you have to miss life experiences. Simply take a small step, enjoy something now and then later. Future you will thank present you one day, I guarantee it. 

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