Although I sometimes forgot my exact age (37), I do know that I am officially in my "late 30s." That means I only have about 30 more years of work to put in before I can retire. That seems like a lot of years, 30. And so many things will and could happen. Some of these variables I'm prepared for, others I am not.
But one thing I am sure of--I am NOT financially prepared for the end of my occupational journey. I remember two of my friends talking during law school about their retirement plans. At the time, the only money I had "saved" was split between what was in my pocket and what (little) happened to be lingering in my checking account. I quickly left the room to avoid all out panic during their discussion.
I'd like to think that the 6.2% of my paycheck that the government has taken all these years will be earning gobs of interest over my working life, compounding as it waits to join me in my golden years. Instead, that money is sent to various "genarians" about 10 minutes after it arrives at the Social Security Adiminstration. And while my funds do earn interest, it's at rate less than 2%. [For 2011, the social security tax is 4.2% for most of us.] It seems unlikely that Uncle Sam will be supporting me in my later years.
So, it's up to me to plan. I am fortunate that my company has a 401(k) plan. I am even more fortunate that they will match my contributions of up to 6% at a 50% rate. (For example, if I put in 4%, they'll match it with 2%.) I started my current job at the age of 31, which experts say is late to start saving for retirement. For the first year or so, I couldn't afford to put money in my 401(k). Financial experts, accountants and dads across the country, however, will be appalled if they learn that you are not maxing out what your company will match. "It's free money!" they will say. But when it's a choice between paying the electric bill today so that you have light next week and socking away dollars in your retirement account so that you can have light 30 years from now, well, next week wins by a landslide.
I do wish I had been more financially savvy and responsible in my 20s. (Who doesn't regret some of the decisions they made in their 20s?? I also wish I'd eaten less junk food and drank less rum.) But now I'm a grown-up, home-owning, leafy greens-eating 37 years old. And I need to buckle down and save for the future. So, today I decided that I'll be upping my 401(k) contributions. Eventually, I should probably learn about IRAs and mutual funds. But right now, I'm happy with my baby steps.