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How to Save for Retirement As a Young Couple

Key Takeaways

  • Get started as soon as possible to take advantage of compound interest.
  • Talk over your expectations for retirement and how you want to prioritize your present and future goals.
  • Gradually increase your contributions 1% every year to continue to grow your nest egg.

Saving for retirement can be a complicated topic for Millennials. On the surface it seems simple — you put away money over the course of decades and, if done correctly, you retire at 65 (or so) to the lifestyle you’ve always imagined.

But how does the game change when you’re working alongside a spouse or significant other? How, as a young couple, do you maximize your efforts to help each other achieve your collective goals?

The following tips can help you two put together a retirement savings strategy that helps you help each other.

Start now (if you haven’t already)

The first and most important step when saving for retirement is just that — saving. This goes for couples as well as individuals. Only 31% of Millennials are contributing money to their retirement. The remaining 69% could be waiting for a number of reasons — student loan debt is hamstringing their monthly budget, they’re prioritizing saving for a house over retirement, or they simply think they can wait until they’re older to start.

Your future selves might ask that you reconsider. Failing to save for retirement early enough is Americans’ biggest financial regret. The reason being, when you contribute money into a 401(k), Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or other retirement account, you earn a return not only on your contributions, but also on the compound interest that accumulates over time.

For example, let’s say each of you contributed $250 a month to your 401(k)s. When you start putting that money away will have a big impact on what you could end up with at age 65.

  • If you started at 25, you each could accumulate about $598,905. That’d be $1,197,810 between the two of you.
  • If you started at 35, you each could accumulate about $283,382. That’d be $566,764 between the two of you.
  • If you started at 45, you each could accumulate about $122,986. That’d be $245,972 between the two of you.

* This example is for illustrative purposes only and assumes a hypothetical 7% annual rate of return.

Those numbers don’t even account for any matching contributions your employer might make to your account. Take a hard look at your collective budget now to find room for your retirement contributions so you can use time to your advantage.

Get on the same page

For some couples, this could be the first order of business. Set aside time to talk over how you want to balance your present and future goals. For instance, how much can each of you afford to contribute to retirement now? Do you value a dream retirement more than short-term amenities? Does one of you want to retire earlier than the other?

You’ll also want to discuss each of your expectations for retirement. Do you want to travel? Will you stay in your home or downsize to an apartment or condo? Do either of you want to work part-time in retirement?

Getting all of these questions out into the open while you’re young is critical to successful planning, as well as a happy retirement down the line. Don’t just assume that you both have the same expectations. Have this initial conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page. Then you can regroup every year to see how your plan is going and if your goals have changed. That way there are no surprises.

Increase contributions every year

Once you have your retirement ball rolling, you’ll want to revisit your collective plans regularly to make necessary adjustments. If you haven’t already, do your best to capitalize on any matching contributions your company makes to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan. If they match 5% of your salary, try to contribute at least that much — don’t leave any unclaimed money on the table!

If the two of you are already contributing up to your employers’ matching contributions, that’s great. Your next step could be to raise your contributions 1% every year. For example, if you both contributed 5% of your salary to your 401(k) last year, aim to contribute 6% this year, and then 7% the following year. 

The two of you could incrementally boost your retirement contributions this way until you’ve maxed out your 401(k)s or other employer-sponsored plans. In 2018, the maximum contribution for 401(k)s is $18,500 for individuals under 50 and $24,500 for those 50 and older.

Maximizing your 401(k) might seem like a steep task right now, especially if you’re juggling multiple financial goals. But as you advance in your careers, you might approach the maximums. Then, if you wish to save more, you could turn to an IRA and capitalize on its tax advantages.

The bottom line

Saving for retirement as a couple isn’t overly complicated. You’re still saving on your own, but now you’ll want to work together to grow your nest egg the best you can. Just make sure you’re both in agreement on your collective retirement goals so you can develop and execute the proper plan.

More information

Since everyone has their own expectations for retirement, we all need a plan tailored to reach those hopes and dreams. To learn how we can help you and your significant other plan for retirement, visit us online or schedule a Citizens Retirement Checkup® today.

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