At my first “real” job out of school, my supervisor was a very stern retired Army captain. He sat all of the new supervisors down in a conference room and proceeded to tell us why we needed to start our retirement planning today in a very direct way. I was 22 with no responsibilities, and Bob’s message hit home. I started saving for my retirement planning by my next paycheck and began participating in our company retirement plan and maximizing my individual contribution.
However, I know it’s not that easy for everyone. Life has a way of altering our best intentions to save and plan for retirement. The problem of saving money for retirement is widespread and difficult to address. It’s clear from the research and news reports that people are not saving enough for their financial future for a variety of reasons, including lack of knowledge of how to save.
Additionally, people simply feel overwhelmed.
A recent AARP survey showed that 76 percent of respondents have accomplished significant financial goals such as buying a home, while more than 70 percent have paid off mortgages, student loans or credit card balances. Some 67 percent have saved for a family vacation.
But just 48 percent say they’ve saved enough to live comfortably through retirement. Nearly 30 percent say they forgo essentially free money by failing to get the full employer match in company-sponsored retirement plans; nearly 25 percent aren’t using recommended savings tactics such as setting aside automatic paycheck deductions.
The financial industry has invested millions of dollars into advertising its services to mostly upper income individuals who may be concerned that they are “not saving enough.”
However, there’s a need for Americans with more modest means to save for their long-term financial future by breaking down actions you can take into smaller steps and with easy-to-understand resources starting now at any age.
You don’t have to be wealthy or work with a professional to achieve a more financially secure future. When you know the ins and outs of your retirement savings options, you can make sure the money you do save is working harder for you.
AARP and the Ad Council have recently launched free retirement planning resources and interactive tools aimed at energizing and empowering you to maximize your retirement goals at www.AceYourRetirement.org.
“Retirement planning can sometimes leave people anxious, confused or even paralyzed,” said Debra Whitman, AARP executive vp and chief public policy officer. “This campaign will break down retirement savings into easy, actionable steps for all Americans.”
AceYourRetirement.org features a digital retirement coach named Avo, a chatbot that will ask the user questions about his or her life, savings goals and retirement plans. Avo then provides personalized action items, including steps the user can take now to save for the future.
For example, Avo might suggest strategies on how to turn a hobby into a source of income, how to have a conversation with a family member about financial priorities or how to maximize a 401(k) contribution.
It’s never too late to start. Looking back, I was fortunate enough to have a real in-person Avo way ahead of his time in my first supervisor.
Ron Mori is co-president of the Washington, D.C. JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.