For most millennials, the idea of retirement is beyond abstract. But the truth is that if it isn't on your radar, you could be setting yourself up for financial ruin later down the road.
Need help with your retirement savings? Metro consulted the experts to help get you on track—no matter what your age.
Saving in your 20s
Without question, the best time to start saving for retirement is in your 20s.
"The most important thing is to just start saving early and to do it on a regular basis, regardless of whether it's through an employer plan or it's through an IRA on your own," says Marilyn Timbers, a certified financial planner and retirement coach with Voya Financial.
It all comes down to the power of compounding. In other words, the sooner you begin, the more time your money has to grow. And if your employer will match your contributions, that's basically like free money.
"The general rule of thumb is 10 to 15 percent of your income, but that's not always possible," says Timbers. "Just starting out with what you need to get the employer match is a really important part."
Susan Green, an attorney and associate financial advisor at Wescott Financial Advisory Group in Philadelphia, echoes the same idea.
"A percentage of your paycheck can be redirected before the money even hits your bank account so that you are not tempted to spend it," says Green. " If you cannot afford to contribute a large percentage at first, begin with a smaller amount, but plan to increase the percentage incrementally over time."
If you don't have a plan available through your employer, consider saving on your own via a Roth IRA.
Saving in your 30s
For many of us, saving for retirement doesn't begin until we hit our 30s. Even so, Timbers says to continue striving for at least 10 to 15 percent of your income.
"The problem with people in their 30s is that they have so many competing financial goals," says Timbers. "They may be starting a family, saving for a house, paying a mortgage; so it's tough."
Still, she drives home the point that you should never sacrifice your retirement savings—even if you're dealing with student loans and other important financial obligations. Even if you have to reduce the amount you're able to kick in, it's still better than nothing.
Another thing to keep in mind now is saving for your children's education. "If you get into your late 40s or early 50s and have to take money out of your retirement plan to help finance education, that really can blow up a plan," says Timbers. "So it's about really trying to balance everything, even if you're on a budget."
Green adds that creating and adhering to a budget is critical. "By documenting and tracking expenses over the course of several months or years, a pattern of necessary and discretionary expenses becomes clear," she says. "While this requires a great deal of discipline, it is essential in helping individuals to understand where there are gaps and where they can cut back."
Saving in your 40s
By the time you hit your 40s, you're that much closer to the homestretch. If you haven't started saving at this point, Timbers says that socking away about 25 percent of your income for retirement isn't a bad goal.
"In your 40s, people are close enough to retirement to begin to visualize it," says Timbers. "It's really about thinking about how you're going to meet your needs, wants and wishes—then figuring out how much income you need to generate to realize those goals."
One perk is that most people in this age group can expect to receive pay increases and bonuses, which can help pad the retirement fund.
"If you expect to receive a bonus each year, do not factor it into your budget," says Green " When you do receive the bonus, you can direct it toward your retirement goals."