Retirement: Tips for your 30s

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LEHI — Whitney Ingram is 31 and her husband, Ethan, is 34. They are a young family with three children: Jack, Van and Violet.

They also own a company called Rockwell Catering. "Food is our life," Ingram said.

Being self-employed made retirement planning a bit more difficult for the couple.

"It was never introduced to us in a 401(k) option," Ingram said. "Retirement was really, is kind of the furthest thing from my mind."

But that changed for Ingram just before she turned 30, when she received an odd Christmas gift from her father.

"He said to us, 'I have a funny gift and you need to come down into the basement,'" she said. "He'd set up a projector and he had put together a PowerPoint presentation."

He told his children to open a Roth IRA account, and to set up automatic and scheduled payments, "and at the end of the year he would match our contribution as a gift," Ingram said.

She realized retirement wasn't what she thought.

"This is so much easier than I've ever been told that it was," Ingram said.

Her dad showed her a projection of her retirement funds just with small monthly contributions.

"It was in the millions, and that's really enticing," she said.

3 steps to successful retirement planning

Alex Mojica, senior wealth planning strategist for Zions Bank, said there are three steps 30-year-olds can take to prepare for retirement. The Ingram family is a good example of all three.

Step 1: Don't let life get in the way

"The first piece of advice I would give to the 30-something is to not let the busyness and complexities of life really get in the way of your long-term retirement planning that you have," he said.

"Life is busy when you have little kids," Ingram said. "Unfortunately, it's not at the forefront of your mind of what needs to happen. But you can still save for retirement."

Part of that is to take advantage of automatic contributions that can increase your contribution annually.

"And a lot of that can be done seamlessly," Mojica said.

As a 30-year-old's career advances, hopefully their paycheck does too.

"So the 30-something can start to think about increasing their contributions into their retirement plans, their IRA and their 401(k)(retirement accounts)," he said.

"Right now it's only $50 a month," Ingram said of her contributions. "This year I'm bumping it up to $60."

Mojica said that increase is important.

Step 2: Up the ante

"The 30-something should really be thinking about maximizing those contributions and put as much as they possibly can into those retirement vehicles," Mojica said.

But he warned about neglecting other financial obligations.

"If you're in your 30s, you should be thinking about setting up an emergency fund, or what we call a rainy-day fund." Mojica said.

Step 3: Create an emergency fund

"The broken water heater, the broken transmission, a loss of jobs," Mojica said. "Those contingencies in life, those things happen."

In addition to a rainy-day fund, Mojica said 30-somethings should also make sure they have the proper insurance for larger contingencies like disability or death.

Now that she has an IRA set up, Ingram said college funds and other investments seem much more manageable.

"Having that money set aside will help you to avoid tapping your retirement fund to pay for those things," Mojica said.

Where does Ingram see herself in 30 years?

"Hopefully traveling the world, enjoying life and relaxing because of small steps I was able to take when I was younger," she said.



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