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How Much Does Procrastinating Your Retirement Savings Actually Cost You? Thumbnail

How Much Does Procrastinating Your Retirement Savings Actually Cost You?

Jon Gardey

President & CEO

How many times have you heard someone say, “Wow! I really wish I had saved less for retirement!”?

If I ever do hear it, it will certainly be a first for me. That’s because accumulating enough wealth to live comfortably in retirement is no simple feat. Typically, folks are looking to enhance their quality of life as they age as well, which may require more income. Whether you are retiring next year or in the next 10 to 20 years, we believe planning as early as possible is the key to success.

How Much Does Procrastinating Your Retirement Savings Actually Cost You?

We’ll compare two college age friends to see just how damaging procrastinating can be.

Different Priorities, Different Paths

John and Craig were inseparable friends in college, and while they shared an ambition for success in life, they could not have been more different in their approach to achieving it. John was always brimming with optimism and confidence, expecting that, no matter how many lemons life tossed at him, he could always make lemonade.

Craig had a more understated self-assurance, which was tempered by his pragmatism. His mantra for success was more along the lines of “If it is to be, it is up to me.” So, when it came to preparing for their futures, it is not too difficult to imagine how these very different attitudes might produce two very different results.

Once settled into his first job, Craig realized that if he were to achieve true financial independence, he would need to develop the habit early on of setting aside a percentage of his income from each paycheck. John, however, felt that there would be time for saving in the future, especially when his success would translate into an ever-increasing income.

Craig set a goal to contribute 15% of his income to his 401k plan, increasing his contribution until it reached $800 per month. Investing in a diversified portfolio of mutual funds, his account would generate an average annual return of 6%. Then, without warning, Craig was struck with a disability that forced him to stop working at the young age of 45. Relying solely on disability income payments for living expenses, he was unable to contribute any more money to his 401k plan, which, by then, had grown to nearly $365,000.

Meanwhile, John was busy contributing to his lifestyle, doing his best to keep up with his friends, many of whom were professionals earning a much higher income than John. He wasn’t concerned, though, because he figured that, through a series of expected promotions, his income would more than double, enabling him to catch up in his 401k plan. Finally, at age 45, about the same time Craig had to stop working, John began contributing in earnest to his retirement plan.

The promotions did not come as quickly as expected, and, unexpectedly, he was laid off and forced to take a similar position at another company at lower pay. He also found it very difficult to adjust his lifestyle enough to save more than $800 per month, but with 20 years left to save before his retirement, he wasn’t that concerned. John also invested in a portfolio of mutual funds, averaging 6% annually, which grew his retirement account to just over $360,000 by the time he was 65.

Where are they now?

These were two guys – the same age, each saving $800 a month and generating the same annual return, and each accumulating around $360,000. There is, however, one significant difference: one started early, and one waited before saving. That considerable difference resulted in a $900,000 difference in the amount of money they had accumulated by age 65. Although Craig stopped making contributions to his plan while John was making his “catch up” contributions, Craig’s funds continued to earn 6 percent and grew to nearly $1.3 million.

The High Cost of Waiting & The Sinking Feeling of Regret

The moral of the story is that we all have roughly the same amount of time – from the time we start working to the time we would like to retire. Yet, not everyone recognizes that time is not only our most valuable asset; it’s also a wasting asset. John, and everyone else who believes there is going to be enough time, proved that there is an actual cost of waiting. And this is not just in the form of undue stress, but in actual dollars and cents.

Unfortunately, too many people come to that realization after it’s too late.

The takeaway: The more time that passes without saving, the higher the cost of your financial goals.

John may have had an opportunity to catch up to Craig; however, it would have cost him four times as much in additional savings, or he would have had to assume a lot more risk to generate a higher return.

Essentially, the more time you have, the less it will cost you to achieve your goals. Put time to work on your side, rather than working against it later in life.

Retirement Planning in Saginaw, Michigan

Find out more about all our financial planning services and how we can help you find your personal path to financial freedom by contacting us, Gardey Financial Advisors in Saginaw, your partners in the financial industry. For more information about the comprehensive planning services we provide, we encourage you to take a look around our website and see if we could be a good match. We best serve clients looking for exceptional client service, who value a long-term partnership, and have minimum of $500,000 in investable assets.


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