Many Americans start saving for retirement when they land their first permanent job in their 20s or early 30s. But for others, it’s not always possible to sock away money at a young age.
Their early salaries may not have allowed much budget room for putting money toward retirement, or they may have been too busy raising a family to think much about the future.
Many adults start their retirement funds between the ages of 35 and 45 — an age at which many may think it’s “too late” to build a winning retirement. But according to Ty J. Young, CEO of Ty J. Young Wealth Management, that’s not true.
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“The strategy is not different,” Young says. “The elements are the same. If you have a shorter time period, you’ve just got to save more, just as simple as that.”
Three Elements of a Winning Retirement Plan
Young says there are three principal elements that make up a successful retirement investing strategy. Whether you start saving in your 20s or further down the road, focusing on these three pillars will eventually take you over the finish line. “We call it the three-legged stool,” Young says.
The first basis of a retirement plan, simply put, is the potential to earn income both now and in the future. It’s important to make a realistic expectation of how much income you stand to make and to allot a given percentage of it to invest in your retirement fund. “You must be set up for that. That’s number one,” Young says.
The main purpose of any kind of investment portfolio, including a retirement fund, is to gain in value over a long period of time. Until you’re finally able to draw from your retirement fund, you should have a collection of securities with assured, long-term growth potential.
These growth stocks may be a little risky, but they present a greater chance of increasing worth.
Every portfolio is subject to the occasional “Black Swan” event: an unpredictable incident or circumstance that can upset or dismantle your financial security. While events like the Great Recession can cause long-term loss of value, the properly maintained portfolio has a few “safe” investments that can survive those episodes.
What to Do When Starting a Retirement Fund Late
Some people who begin their retirement funds late in life make the mistake of investing more in securities with an elevated risk. They believe “high-risk, high-reward” investments offer the biggest chance of extreme profits and feel they must concentrate on those speculative stocks and investments because time is running short.
Young says that’s too dangerous a position to take. “You need to earn, or be in a position to earn, a reasonable rate of return. So instead of taking extraordinary risk, you have to save more if your time window is shorter. The shorter the time window, the more money you have to save.”
One of the most crucial decisions about starting a retirement fund is setting a realistic retirement date that best fits your late-life plans. “Is it really age 62 if you plan to do some traveling,” Young asks, “or do you need three more years and retire instead at 65?”
Your retirement age can be flexible, of course, depending on life events and unforeseen circumstances. But setting a pragmatic estimate when you start saving up allows you to execute an investment approach early on. It can set you up to amplify your savings portfolio using each part of the three-legged stool.
The Rule of 100
The Rule Of 100 is a timeworn investment strategy that’s held true for decades. Put simply, it says to subtract your age from the number 100. The resulting number is the percentage of your portfolio that should be reserved for stocks and growth investments.
For example, if you’re 48, then 52% of your portfolio funds should go toward those securities, while the remaining 48% should be in safer investments like bonds or treasury funds.
Young says the Rule of 100 is still very valid and a good benchmark for those starting their retirement funds late. The proportion of “safe” investments acts as a protective measure against market downturns or losses.
“(With) the right mix of having the amount equal to your age in a safe place, you’ve got to have earned a reasonable rate of return historically about 6 to 8%,” Young says. “And then the remaining percentage in stocks to get growth. You get that ratio just right, and you adjust it on an annual basis. You could really have a successful retirement.”
So even if you’re up there in years but late to saving, there’s still enough time to build a successful retirement. All it takes is focus, strategy, and a little more elbow grease.