Retirement is so weird to me. The idea that you could spend decades doing nothing is unfathomable. I know, I know, retired people don’t do “nothing” all day. But compared to working 40+ hours a week at a steady job, retirement is a lot of *not* working. Do I even want that? I LOVE working. Ask any one of my friends, they know how much I love my job. Maybe this will change. Actually, it probably will, I can’t imagine I’ll be the same person in FORTY years. See? So unfathomable. I can’t even imagine being 31, let alone retirement age. I get really in my head about this kind of stuff, and a lot of times it can lead to me not taking action. That’s exactly how I dealt with retirement in my early 20s.
I took a non-direct path to my current career. My first 3 jobs after college weren’t in my field of study and weren’t traditional companies with 401(k)s. I’ve always been interested in making the most of my money though. Upon graduation I used my first paycheck to buy two books by other financial experts (*ahem*). I read both. I understood about half of each. I read them again (have I mentioned I’m a big reader?). What I gathered from both books was I really needed to save for retirement. I’d never even heard of a 401(k) at this point, so I definitely didn’t have the knowledge needed to set up an IRA for myself (to be completely honest, I still get IRAs and Roth IRAs mixed up). At age 22, I put “open a retirement account” on my to-do list. There it sat for the next SIX YEARS. I am not proud of this fact. I did try once to make my retirement goal a reality. I went into a branch and asked about retirement accounts. After listening to actual gibberish for 20 minutes, I made a quick exit and cried in my car. Ugh, being 23 is really hard.
Several years later, I got this job. Pete, being Pete, offered a 401(k) with a match. I didn’t really know what a match was, but once he explained it to me I immediately met the match. I exhaled a breath I’d been holding for six years. I was finally saving for retirement! I was 28 years old, but still!
A few weeks into my employ Pete and I got talking about retirement savings and I confessed to him that I hadn’t saved a dime until a few weeks ago. He was very understanding and helped me run some numbers. Pete’s all about taking action. He didn’t want me to waste one more second feeling guilty or upset about the six years I hadn’t saved for retirement, he wanted me to get right to fixing it. So I did. I increased my contribution percentage to 5%, then a few months later 10%. I even went on the Ask PTP Podcast to talk about it. Two years in, I’m contributing 15% of my take-home pay. Yeah, it’s a lot. If I don’t think about how much I’m “giving up” I’m good. Thankfully, it comes out of my pay and I never have to make the decision about saving it or not.
I corrected my retirement planning mistake. I’ll be able to retire at a reasonable time, but only because (with a healthy push from my employer) I finally took action. I don’t know if I’ll want to have a “traditional” retirement, but it doesn’t really matter right now. I’m financially preparing myself for whatever lifestyle my super-cool and beautiful 65 year old self will want.
Jasmin is Vice President of Marketing & Operations for Pete the Planner®. Jasmin runs special projects, manages programming for clients, and stews over new and creative ways to engage people with their finances. In her downtime you can find Jasmin hanging a light fixture or painting a room at her fixer upper.