I'm not alone when it comes to worrying about my retirement accounts. Unlike many people in their 20s, I actually did begin saving for retirement at a young age. I didn't do so well with it in my early 30s, but rebounded around age 35. I had a nice nest egg—a good start that I could continue to add to until I needed to begin withdrawing it.
Then a divorce hit.
Then the recession hit.
Actually, they both hit at the same time.
Before I knew it, my retirement account was depleted and I found myself entering my 50s with the need to start over once again. Life can throw lots of curve balls as the years pass by, and no one knows just how long they will be able to work before needing to step back and draw on those funds that have (hopefully) accumulated over a lifetime. Face it, Social Security was never meant to be the only source of retirement income and it certainly will not sustain an average person—which is why so many retirees are greeting us every day when we walk in to Wal-Mart. A couple years ago I made a conscious decision to make building my retirement a priority. I opened an online investment account, created a ROTH IRA and designated it to be invested in a S&P 500 Index Fund. I basically am investing parallel to the stock market as a whole. There are plenty of other choices out there, but for me the index fund made the most sense.
I automatically invest 10 percent of all my gross earnings each and every payday. Bonus money, lottery winnings, rebates, and really any cash that is unexpected is automatically sent in to be invested as well. I discovered several apps that pay money for mundane tasks, and I downloaded them. Every time I cash out, that money goes into the IRA as well. Some great suggestions are Job Spotter, which pays cash every time you send in photos of Help Wanted signs. Yep, they actually pay you to do that. There also are several survey companies that send you cash in the mail for completing short surveys (Scarborough Research). These are sweet little additions that don't cost me anything to invest and add to my overall savings plan.
The investment firm I use offers some ETFs that are commission-free. Those are the ones to seek out, because it will save you valuable money over the long run. A quick check of all the major online investment firms proved that most of them offer a variety of commission-free ETFs to consider.
I'm still behind on my retirement savings curve—I guess short of winning the lottery, I always will be. But, I'm making progress and I'm proud of that. Age doesn't matter—begin investing small and it will make a difference in the long run.
I did really well last year. Overall, I averaged a 22 percent return on my investments. That was shattered "bigly" last week when the stock market took a major tumble, but I'm not retiring this week anyway. There is plenty of time to ride out the storm. In the meantime, I keep buying shares at the reduced price. I'm feeling pretty good about where it is going.
Whether you are 20 years old or 60, it's really never too late to begin stashing some cash for the golden years that—for some weird reason—sneak up on us a lot faster than we ever expect. A small investment of $20 a week can make a big difference.