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RedKnight's avatar

Is it better to invest in your life now or for retirement? What is a proper balance?

Asked by RedKnight (493points) August 3rd, 2015

I’ve been very conflicted about retirement, 401k, and IRA options lately. I graduated recently and have already bolstered my 401k a little from an internship. I’ve been doing research and using a lot of retirement calculators and it seems like in order to have sufficient retirement here in the US, you need to put away a lot every month. I’m just scared of not putting away enough. At the same time however, life is never promised and I don’t want to sacrifice my life now and end up not touching majority or any of the retirement later on in life(65+). Since this is anonymous I feel more comfortable sharing some more specific details. My company matches four percent of the 401k and I make around 75k. I was thinking of contributing 6 percent for a total of 10 percent of my salary towards the 401k. Is this enough? What is the best option to take? I feel like I’m choosing between now and later and it’s not a good feeling. I was also thinking of putting maybe 1–2% into a Roth IRA. Thanks for the help!

TL;DR – Is 10 percent of your salary a year enough for retirement? What should someone aim at saving? Is it better to live for the now or the future?

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11 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

You don’t say how old you are. While a dollar saved at age 25 is three times as valuable as a dollar saved at age 50, your salary is also generally lower at a younger age.

10% is a good guideline if you have no other savings going on. At a minimum, maximize whatever you can get matched by the company, because that is an instantaneous 100% return on your money. But once you have a set amount, and it is gone from your paycheck, don’t fret too much.

Look over your 401k once every few months, but don’t tinker with it too much as that will affect your returns. And then enjoy your life knowing you are saving for later but not being overly concerned about it.

janbb's avatar

In America, there is not likely to be much of a social safety net by the time you retire, so you should save for retirement from a young age. It is a Catch-22 because you want to enjoy yourself throughout your life as well and don’t know how much time you will have. Definitely fund your 401-K as @zenvelo suggests and don’t spend all that you have on living for now.

You don’t mention if you plan to have kids; if so, saving for college is another factor to consider.

If there is a financial planner available through your place of work or one you can consult, it would be a good investment of your time.

It is a wonderful thing to feel financially secure as you approach retirement but don’t deprive yourself of pleasure now. I have always felt that experiential riches such as travel are more important than having a McMansion and a fancy car (or a very expensive engagement ring.)

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’d say that 10% is a good, maybe even a great goal. If you have the cash then feel free to put in the max allowed. There is no reason to burn though money on drinks just because you have a little extra.

By the time you are 60 that will be the “new 40”. You will not be an old and tottering senior citizen. You’ll be glad you saved the bucks – and brain cells .

Congratulations for at least thinking about the future. People like you give me hope!

Pachy's avatar

All I can tell you is, wish I’d had this guy counseling me when I was in my 20s and 30s—those days when the present was stupidly the only thing I thought about.

RedKnight's avatar

@zenvelo I’m in my early 20’s. That makes me feel better about it. I think I’ll stick to that 10 percent and make sure to get the maximum company match.
@janbb I do plan on kids one day so that will definitely be something to think about as well. I will look into the financial planner and see if one is available through the company. That would be excellent. I also totally agree with your last statement. I’m all about experiences over things! I’m glad you included that last part because it definitely applies and is something to think about. I’m very much into saving money and using it for fun on experiences like trips and travel and as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to think that way more and more.
@LuckyGuy Thank you! I think that I could put in more, but I feel like it would be taking a whole lot out of my pay at that point. Thank you for your help.

RedKnight's avatar

@Pachy This looks like good software. Is it truly free or are there hidden costs?

ibstubro's avatar

It’s admirable that your even willing to save for retirement, and I personally think your 10% plan is perfect for now.
Never put yourself in the position of being unable to contribute enough to get whatever the company match is. Free money.

(I’m 54, semi-retired and debt free.)

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

It’s all about your age and where you invest and as you mention, balance. If you’re just graduating, you have a lot of life to live so the majority of your investments should be accessible so you can use them for property and your long-term future. See a financial adviser who can help you establish a good investment plan. At your age, you can afford to take more risks and potentially earn higher interest from your investments. However, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Speak to people you know have successful investment portfolios and if they have an adviser, ask for a referral.

It is good to think about your retirement, and you can invest a small amount out of each pay into a pension plan (or whatever is available in your country). However, this money is often not available to you until you retire (where I live anyway). So as a young person, that’s tying your money up to a point where it’s not working to help you live the life you want to live. Putting a small amount into superannuation (your pension plan) is however, a good idea. It will accrue interest and help to ensure you’re secure when you retire. Just don’t overdo it.

That you are thinking this way bodes well for your future.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know your question was about financials but when it popped up in my feed that caused me to think about it again.
One of the best investments you can make is in yourself – your own health.
Getting in shape now – at an early age – will pay dividends to you for the rest of your life.
Start today. It will never be easier.

I wish someone had told me that.

gorillapaws's avatar

The more you can save early, the better off you’ll be. Compounding interest is like magic. Doubling-of-the-doubling. Money increases exponentially, but it takes time. You have time on your side. If you can live like a miser for like 5 years and really stack your investments early, you can slack off for the rest of your life and still come out ahead.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

That depends, if this is all you figure life to be, then logic says get it while the getting is good, because once you die (and no one knows when that day is), you may have died with a lot of unspent bullets in the clip.

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