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More than 1/3 Americans don't have retirement; here's how to start



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — It may be the worst kept secret in America — many of us are falling short on retirement savings.

A recent study from Bankrate found nearly 36% of us have never had any sort of a retirement account — period. And of those who do, 52% say they're behind where they need to be. So, if your savings plans have stalled, how do you get the ball rolling?

If you are counting on a trek to Idaho or Wyoming to fund your retirement with a Powerball jackpot, the harsh truth is you are much more likely to get struck by lightning, with odds of 1 in 15,300, than buying the winning ticket, with odds of 1 in 292,201,338.

But there is a sure way to score retirement funds: the magic of compound interest.

"The sooner you start, the better," said certified financial planner Shane Stewart of Deseret Mutual Benefits Administrators.

Stewart said the money in your retirement account does not just sit idly waiting for your 67th birthday. It continuously grows with compounding interest.

"It will compound faster and faster the more years that you have. Now again, it's never too late, but it's also never too early," he explained.

The KSL Investigators fired up a compound interest calculator to give you an idea: If you start putting away $500 a month at age 25, with a conservative six-percent rate of return, your nest egg will grow to $1,140,756 when you reach age 67. It is $581,735 if you start at age 35. At age 45, the nest will reach $274,478. Heck, even if you start at age 55, you will still have at least $105,600 squirreled away in 12 years.

"So, if you're not retired and you think it's too late, you're wrong," Stewart said. "There's always something that you can do and a good time to start is now."

If you have zero saved up for retirement, Stewart recommends starting by signing up for your job's 401(k) plan. Take full advantage of any match your employer offers. It can double your retirement investment, for free!

No 401(k)? Stewart recommends going with a Roth IRA account. Your contributions are post-tax dollars, so your investment compounds tax free.

"They make it very turnkey to get in and get started with them and they have proper investments that they provide, and properly diversified as well for your timeframe," Stewart said.

"A lifetime goal is having 10% or more of what you're making going in," Stewart added. "But if you're just starting, that might be a little much to take out of your paycheck, and so you might start with a few dollars of your paycheck each time and get that going."

One of the best things you can do to turn saving for retirement into a strong habit, argues Stewart, is to automate your contributions from your payroll or bank account. That can help you keep on track without having to pin your hopes on the Powerball.

You should know, there is legislation making its way through Congress right now called the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022. If it passes, it will make automatic enrollment into retirement programs mandatory for businesses with more than 11 employees. And it would allow people in their 60s to significantly increase their catch-up contributions.

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KSL InvestigatesLifestyleUtah
Matt Gephardt
Matt Gephardt has worked in television news for more than 20 years, and as a reporter since 2010. He is now a consumer investigative reporter for KSL TV. You can find Matt on Twitter at @KSLmatt or email him at matt@ksl.com.
Sloan Schrage

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