-By Caitlin Koppelman–
While I was in college, people told me I had fewer obligations and more financial flexibility than I’d have in my entire life. I could not comprehend that at the time. In retrospect, I can see it now: No mortgage, no kids, and those blessed student loans were still in deferment! Life was so simple: almost no liabilities and a high percentage of discretionary income. Now, I have to remind myself that I’m in the “accumulation phase” of life. I’m accumulating valuable assets for the future: an education, our first home and starting a retirement savings plan. Those assets aren’t cheap, but I’m making an investment for the future. Every mortgage payment and every retirement contribution is like money in a future bank account.
Even though it’s natural to want to pay more attention to your present bank account, now is the time to make deposits for that far off phase of life. Do it now, while it’s easier than ever. Notice I said, “easier” not “easy”. It is never easy to delay gratification, but if we want to reap the benefits at harvest time, we have to sow and tend the garden along the way. With 35+ years on your side, a little bit now can multiply if handled wisely.
Who has time to tend that financial garden? There are only so many hours in the week and who wants to spend their down time planning a future retirement that they can barely imagine? As a 28-year-old, I can’t blame you for being skeptical. You’re probably a little jaded by the whole idea of savings, debt, and retirement. It comes down to risk and reward. If a Traverse City cherry farmer is hopeful for a good crop, he faces the risk of frost, pests and drought, head on. It’s worth the risk for him because of the potential reward. His potential reward is higher because he took the risk and planted the trees. For me, I’m not willing to live a life of limited influence in the future because of financial constraints. So, I plant now and plan for a harvest.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
- Many employers offer 401(k) matching programs. Take full advantage of that by deferring at least the percentage at which the company will match your contribution. That’s free money! If your employer doesn’t offer a match, at least do your own contributing.
- Connect with a financial adviser you trust. Be brave and share your goals. Take advantage of their expertise. You’re a professional with your own expertise in a specific area. Let them use their wisdom and experience to set you free to focus on the things you care about.
- After you’ve made a trustworthy connection, make a plan and stick to it! Come flood or draught; keep your eye on the prize!
Remember, delayed gratification is not natural. When something threatens your cherry trees, you’ll be tempted to give up. Stay the course! The harvest is coming!