Why should you make a savings resolution for 2024? Kiplinger Senior Editor Sandra Block sat down with Marci Stewart to find out. Stewart is director of communication consulting and participant education at Schwab Workplace Financial Services.
Savings resolutions differ by generation
A recent Charles Schwab survey found that 99% of Generation Z workers say they face obstacles to saving for retirement, yet the majority also say they’d like to retire as early as 61, compared with 64 for millennials, 64 for Gen X workers and 68 for boomers. What do you think accounts for this disconnect?
There are a couple of things at play. Gen Zers are just getting started, and these are their lower-income years. They’re also establishing themselves, which means maybe getting an apartment or making major purchases, so it’s easy to see why they would have obstacles. As far as Gen Z’s desire to retire earlier than Gen Xers, millennials and boomers, you might think that’s really aggressive, but I think about that a little differently. Gen Z has access to more tools to develop healthy savings habits than previous generations at their age, including financial coaching, workplace wellness programs, digital advice through their workplace, and things like student loan assistance programs that a lot of employers are offering. And perhaps as powerful as all of that, they also have time on their side.
Young people have always faced challenges when it comes to saving for retirement. What’s different about Gen Z?
One of the things we can point to right now is the economic environment. While the rate of inflation is slowing, the goods and services people are paying for every day are still more expensive than they were a year ago. That’s going to impact you disproportionately if you have a lower income, compared with people who have more discretionary income and can absorb those higher costs. The other thing to note is rising interest rates. When Gen Zers have to borrow to make major purchases, such as a car, they’re borrowing at the highest rates we’ve seen in years.
How to save when money is tight
This is the time of year when workers often resolve to save more, but many young people say that by the time they’ve paid their rent, bills, student loans and other debts, there’s nothing left to put aside for retirement. How do you advise these workers?
We encourage workers to prioritize saving. First, try to contribute at least up to the amount your company matches in your 401(k). If you don’t, it’s like leaving free money on the table. Second, focus on paying off high-interest debt, such as credit card debt. Next, build up an emergency fund, and then focus on maximizing contributions to your 401(k). We know you can’t always do every step at once, but if your employer allows you to automatically increase contributions to your 401(k), even just by 1% to 2% a year, you’ll continue increasing your savings.
People often think they need to save an exorbitant amount of money out of the gate to be able to retire. We offer a tool that shows how even a small contribution from your paycheck can make a big impact on your retirement savings over time. You can find it at the Schwab Savings Learning Center.
Getting financial advice
Are employers doing enough to help young workers save for retirement?
We’ve seen a really large increase in the number of financial wellness and retirement counseling programs offered, and many employers are helping with student loan repayments, too. Our survey found that most Gen Zers and millennials say their employer is helping them deal with financial stress. It’s a really positive sign that Gen Z is so engaged. Our survey found that Gen Zers, much more than other generations, believe they have a right to financial advice and guidance. We talk to so many people in their forties and fifties who’ve never talked to anyone about their finances because they didn’t think they had enough money saved up yet. We believe that no matter the amount you’ve saved, the sooner the better when it comes to getting retirement advice.
Note: This item first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, a monthly, trustworthy source of advice and guidance. Subscribe to help you make more money and keep more of the money you make here.
Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.
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