Getting an early start on saving for retirement is critical. If you do not believe this, here is an example: A 22-year-old worker earning $40,000 starts saving 6% of that in a 401(K) while the employer adds another 3%. Assuming a 6% rate of return, that person will have accumulated $827,000 by the time retirement rolls around at age 67.
If that same worker waits until age 30 to start saving, that same annual contribution of $3,600 will have grown to $490,000—that’s $337,000 less!
When it comes to accruing a substantial retirement nest egg, time can be even more important than the type of investments you choose. Those eight years from the previous example can never be recovered, so it is crucial not to waste them.
The time to Rollover the old 401(K) is now!
Many millennials are missing out on saving for retirement during these all-important early years on the job. By the time they have reached the age of 32, the average millennial will have had four different jobs—and over 20% of them have changed jobs in the past year! That rate is three times higher than earlier generations.
While living for today and disregarding the future might seem to make sense to a twenty-something, that same person could be filled with regrets when it is hard to make ends meet in retirement. This short-sighted philosophy can result in millennials cashing out their small distributions and paying the taxes and penalties they owe.
Worse yet, many of them, believing the paperwork is not worth the effort, abandon their 401(K) plans as they move on to the next job. In doing so, these young workers are missing out on the magic of compounding, as even the smallest accounts can grow to be substantial amounts.
Here’s another example:
A young worker decides to change jobs at the age of 26, having accumulated $7,000 in a 401(K) over four years of work. That amount does not seem significant enough to make a difference, so the worker cashes in and puts a down payment on a car. After paying taxes and penalties, there is about $5,000 to put toward the car.
If that same worker rolled that $7,000 into an IRA and allowed it to grow at a 6% rate of return until retirement, it would be worth over $81,000 and that car would have been long forgotten!
It is easy to roll over a 401(K) managed by your former employer to either a plan at your new company or to your IRA. And even if it is a bit of a hassle, the previous example should convince you that your efforts will be handsomely rewarded.
Some millennials opt for an indirect rollover
It sounds like a good idea on the surface. The indirect rollover allows you to receive a check when you leave your job and then roll the proceeds into another 401(K) or IRA at a later date. But this method is fraught with complications: You have the responsibility of getting this money to the right place, and you must do it within 60 days. If you cannot manage that, you will be hit with taxes and penalties.
One more reason to stick with a direct transfer: Your old employer is required to withhold 20 percent from your distribution for income taxes, so to keep from having to pay taxes and penalties on that 20%, you need to come up with that amount for the rollover and wait until you file your taxes to get back the withheld amount.
Possibly the biggest mistake millennials are making
As mentioned, many younger workers believe that retirement is a long way off and they need not concern themselves with it just yet. As a result, they choose not to participate in their employer’s 401(K) plan, and they miss out on those essential early years that allow compounding to begin sooner and turn small amounts into substantial savings at retirement.
Contributing to an employer’s 401(K) is the best way to put retirement savings on auto-pilot and save money on taxes right now. Once the plan is set up, you can begin to revolve your budget around the new net pay. Most people don’t notice the difference in their paychecks after a few weeks, but after a few years, they will be paying attention to that growing sum of money in their retirement account.
When you get right down to it, the biggest mistake the younger generation is making is not having anything to roll over when they hop to their next job.