Does a 20-year-old need a financial planner? Most people don’t even consider the ramifications of retirement (potential) and old age (certain) until well in their 40s or later.
The short answer is: Not a financial planner — yet — but definitely a financial plan.
That’s because planning is important at any time in one’s life, and especially important when it comes to retirement saving. As the saying goes, you can plan to fail by failing to plan.
Which financial planning ideas matter most to young people? Here’s a quick breakdown.
1. Save more, sooner
The way real wealth is built in the world is with discipline and effort. Yes, you might managed to get stock options in a hot startup company or inherit a load of money unexpectedly or enjoy some other windfall. But jut saving more gives you the ultimate in investing power: Steady compounding over long periods of time.
2. Develop a long-term goal
Retire at 40? Totally possible. Save $1 million dollars? Piece of cake. You can do anything so long as you set a serious goal and find a plan that gets you there. Periodic, automated saving into a retirement IRA is a good way to start.
3. Learn more about investing
The greatest investment you will ever make is buying yourself education. That can be college degree or professional schooling, but it also can take the form of reading and learning on your own. Start with The Elements of Investing, and let your public library’s personal finance section become your second home.
4. Consider the real risks you face
In time, you will hear a lot about insurance, particularly when you start a family. But where are you running real risks today? One place is very likely your automobile coverage. Answer this question: If you hit a $90,000 sports car and injured the driver, how much financial trouble would you be in? A sobering thought.
5. Worry less, enjoy more
Once you settle No. 4 on this list, remember, you’re young! You have time for false starts and poorly considered plans. Don’t let a small mistake be the reason you give up on investing. If you step back from risk and stay out of the markets for a decade, you blow a chance to double your money with relatively little effort.
Investing is not rocket science, no matter how esoteric it might seem. It really is just setting aside money and prudently putting it at risk over long periods of time. In your 20s, the only big mistake you can make in that game is to not play at all.