There are many different definitions of the “American Dream”, some say it’s a great job and nice house, others say it’s comfortably raising a family, yet my definition varies a bit from those. To me, the American Dream is about affording a comfortable retirement after hitting all of those milestones above. Owning a home is nice, and raising a family is paramount, but it’s your financial health after those achievements that truly matters most. Nobody wants to work forever, I know I certainly don’t, so saving and spending wisely from a young age is very important. Regardless of your income bracket it is clear that today’s generation is severely unprepared for retirement. In order to properly prepare for retirement please heed my suggestions below.
Take advantage of every retirement account you can! This means that if your employer offers a 401k plan with matching funds, then you better contribute enough to receive the full match. If you are able to max out your 401k that is even better. I’ve seen people that fail to contribute to their 401k plan and lose out on the employer match, this is like throwing away free money. If your employer offered you a raise today would you say no? If do you contribute to a 401k then don’t stop there. There are plenty of other IRA accounts (SEP, Traditional, Roth) that you may qualify for as well. The best part about these accounts is that each one offers some sort of tax advantage. Remember, the earlier you start the better off you will be. The power of compound interest can take a little bit of money and turn it into a lot.
While tax advantaged accounts are the next best thing to sliced bread, they aren’t the end all be all of retirement savings. After maxing out my 401k and IRA options, I opened up an online brokerage account that I fund with after-tax dollars. This allows me to aggressively save and invest for my medium term plans, rather than just for my long term retirement savings. Here you can engage in blue chip stocks or even index funds. My theory on these accounts is that they can be liquidated much easier than a retirement account, and they offer more aggressive savings options of a typical bank account. Don’t forget, you don’t want inflation eating up your savings either.