In search of the golden egg

Dan Robards/Staff Financial Writer

In speech class we learn that words have connotative meanings. So let’s take the next few moments to play the word association game.

When I say retirement, what do you think of? Most of us probably think of cleaning our dentures while sitting in the old-folks home, enjoying a competitive game of Parcheesi – or squeezing a pair of khaki’s over your adult diapers so that you can make it through the entire 18-hole course.

But retirement is as relevant to college students as it is to empty-nesters who are getting ready to retire in the next couple years. Unless you win the lottery, retirement for most of us is a life-long investment of planning and saving.

Last week, I mentioned the American dream and its meaning to all of us. Another part of that dream (and one of the things that makes America so great) is the quality of life. Even for college students,’ we have much to appreciate out of life. Most of us are fed, we have a roof over our heads and running water – which is more than a lot of people around the world can say. But how do we ensure a quality of life when we are older without having to work for the rest of our lives?

The answer is investing.

Although most of us are still young, have all of our hair and teeth and most of us have not even started to begin our careers it is never too early to think about retirement. Any college student with a job has a reminder of what fails to await them by the time they retire. Each week, we pay into social security and there is nothing we can do about it – and for many years, people have enjoyed social security as part of their retirement.

Consider this: if no changes are made to the system in 2017, the social security fund will be spending more than it brings in. And in 2041, social security will stop paying full benefits. This is a sobering reality, but a great reason to start thinking about your future.

If social security is not going to be around by the time we retire, and the place we work now does not offer 401k, what is the best way to invest? For young investors (such as college students), a great way to invest your savings is through a Roth-IRA.

A Roth-IRA is a retirement savings account that you pay into after taxes. This type of account allows flexibility for young investors in a way that if you need cash, you can withdraw your contributions (not earnings) at any time with no penalty. They are also tax-free. So when you finally reach that point in your life when you are eligible to retire, all that money is free of taxes.

If you have a little bit of extra money to invest, now is the time. Due to today’s recession, most stocks are at the lowest point they have been in a long time.

If you invest smart with companies that are going to be around for awhile, you have the advantage of giving that stock price time to climb higher and can turn something as negative as this recession into a profit for you.

If all that was not enough to make you think more about retirement, think about the interest. If you start saving for retirement when you are 25, and retire when you are 65, that is 40 years of interest accumulated. Even if you only pay into your account for 10 years you would make more money than if you started saving at 35 and paid faithfully for the next 30 years.

Being a college student, I know how tough it is to thinkabout 40, or even 50, years down the road of my finances. It’s not easy to consistently save money. Like anything else though, it is a lifestyle choice.

Losing weight is very simple –‘ you burn more calories than you take in. But it is not that easy. Saving money is simple, too — you spend less than you make. But it is not that easy. We have to control our urges and impulse buys and think through our decisions more carefully.

There is no ‘magic pill’ when it comes to being successful in life — just some hard work and perseverance. It is simple, but it is not easy.