Securing Your Financial Future
When it comes to securing your financial future, the best time to start planning is today. There are a lot of tools and products available to help put a plan together, but they all have one thing in common: the earlier you take advantage of them, the better off you’ll be.
Studies have shown that younger individuals, particularly millennials, tend to prefer savings over retirement accounts. Whether that’s because they lived through the Great Recession and saw what happened to older generations whose retirement strategies were rooted in the stock market, a lack of financial literacy, or something else altogether, the fact remains that younger generations have a more conservative mindset regarding financial planning and investing.
Many people put off retirement planning until retirement itself moves more into focus. But to maximize the impact of your efforts to plan for a secure financial future, start as early as you can. Here’s where you should start.
For many people in the workforce, a 401(k) is offered through their employer. Saving money for the future in a tax-advantaged vehicle is a wise move, but for those whose companies offer a 401(k) match, it’s a no-brainer to maximize that source of free money. Due to the power of compound interest, even a small regular contribution makes a major difference over time.
Consider this example. If you invest $50 a month into a 401(k), at an average 7% annual rate of return, that investment adds up. After 15 years, you’ll have invested $9,000, but it will be worth over $15,000. That same $50 a month after 30 years will amount to $18,000 out of your pocket, but it will have grown to nearly $57,000. And if you invest just $50 a month for 45 years, that $27,000 investment will be worth just under $171,500. (You may not get 7% every year, but as an illustration, the value is clear.)
Planning for your financial future can be difficult when you may not even have a view of that horizon. You don’t know what your life will look like, what your financial needs will be, and what resources will be available to you once you are no longer working.
Annuities provide a great response to the uncertainty of long-range financial planning. It’s the only financial product available that guarantees an income stream for life — once you turn on that income stream, it’s fixed. Fluctuations in interest rates or the marketplace won’t affect it. An annuity will provide you with a paycheck every single month until the day you die — and some products even allow you to extend that benefit to your spouse or children.
This is the big one, but many people overlook life insurance because they won’t be able to take advantage of it themselves. But ask yourself, at any stage of life, if you don’t make it home one day, who relies on you to provide financially? More than anything, insurance is a form of safety and protection, for you and for those you love. It’s critically important for someone who is married with children to have life insurance in case of tragedy, to be able to help cover debts, provide a future source of income and even allow space for grief without financial anxiety.
But even for single young professionals, just starting off their careers, life insurance should be a primary consideration in financial planning.
Consider a young, single, 23-year-old individual who may not have anyone who depends on their income. Why would that person want to purchase a life insurance policy in that situation? In part, because they don’t know what their situation will be like in 1, 5 or 10 years, and a 20- or 30-year term life insurance policy will provide financial safeguards for some of the possibilities that may arise. Additionally, there’s a popular saying in the insurance industry: money pays for life insurance, but health buys it. When you are young and healthy, you’ll never be able to get a life insurance policy as cheaply as you can at that point.
Just as you never know if or when your circumstances may change and you’ll find yourself wanting a life insurance policy to protect the financial interests of someone you married five years after initially deciding not to purchase a policy, you may also receive a diagnosis in that same five-year period that makes life insurance impossible (or prohibitively out of reach).
If you buy life insurance when you’re young and healthy, you can take advantage of the best rates possible and provide a blanket of financial security for your loved ones.
Financial planning isn’t a lot of fun for most people, but it is necessary. Whether you are aiming for a specific short- to a mid-range financial goal or turning your eye toward your eventual retirement, it pays to start thinking about securing your financial future as early as possible. The cost of doing so when you are young is comparatively lower than if you wait 10, 20, or 30 years to make some of the same decisions.
If you’re young, take advantage of your long time horizon and plan accordingly. If you’re older and already feeling close to retirement, you may not have taken advantage of the power of compound interest but it’s still not too late to reallocate some of your assets and shore up your financial situation as much as possible.
For anyone, I would strongly recommend seeking out the advice and experience of a financial professional — they will understand all of your available options and know best how to construct a strategic plan to help you reach your goals.