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You can't afford not to save for retirement and other financial lessons of 2015
First-person account of impact of Deseret News National's coverage of financial responsibility. - photo by Matthew Brown
Most parents can't help themselves from dispensing sage advice to their children. At best, it's an attempt to help their offspring experience the success or avoid the misery of their missteps. At worst, parents want to relive an ideal through their children.

In my experience as a child and a parent, if advice is unsolicited it is largely ignored. But if it comes in response to a teenager's or young adult's question, I sense my input is at least considered in their decision-making.

Lately, the questions have been about finances insurance, credit, investing, job changes, etc. Fortunately, I have at my disposal a plethora of information to draw from besides my own experience. Throughout the past year, our stable of writers has written about a broad range of financial topics.

Some of the more insightful stories have been about young adults' attitudes toward paying for college, finding employment and saving for retirement. While the millennial generation is often criticized in popular media for their informality, fickle consumerism and career indecision, some financial planners say millennials are forward-thinking when it comes to retirement and conservative in their investments.

That was far from my mindset as a 20-something college graduate and even in my first few years of full-time employment. I had a 401(k) benefit, but for several years, I didn't think I could afford the minimum contribution a decision I reget as I approach my 60s.

So when my 21-year-old son, who is still in college, asked me recently about whether to put money into a 401(k) savings plan offered by his employer, I emphatically replied, "Yes." Referring to past articles I had edited on the topic, we discussed the advantage of compound interest and how his savings can be rolled over from one plan to another as he changes jobs or into a Roth IRA if his employment doesn't provide a savings plan benefit.

With consumers deluged by advertising and product reviews on the latest electronic gadgets, the pressure to spend now rather than save for later feels more intense than 30 years ago. It may be one reason about half of American households 55 and older have no retirement savings, according to a GAO report. And of the 48 percent who do have some savings, it's not much.

"Among those with some retirement savings, the median amount of those savings is about $104,000 for households age 55-64 and $148,000 for households age 65-74, equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 per month, respectively," the report states. "Social Security provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older."

Small wonder the government launched a new savings instrument the myRA designed to get young people into the habit of saving for retirement to supplement their government benefits.

As I have talked to my young adult children about socking away money early for the future, I relate a story about our financial planner and the disappointment he often witnesses. He told my wife and me several years ago that too many people come to him for the first time within months of their planned retirement date. Their excitement about entering a new phase in their life quickly fades when they learn they can't afford to make the change after all.

He wishes they had come to him in their 20s and learned they couldn't afford not to begin planning for retirement right away.
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