Planning and saving for retirement is a challenge for almost everyone these days. For those in the millennial generation, the thought can be daunting. Millennials are officially going through the first stage of their career and they’ve been battling higher financial demands than generations before them, including skyrocketing housing costs, higher transportation, and basic living expenses. This is on top of the $48,000 average household debt that this generation is also trying to pay off.

These varying stresses have caused this generation to shift their mindset on what retirement will look like for their generation and whether this is even an option. The scary part, though, is older generations are also going through financial worries.

According to a recent poll from the Associated Press – National Opinion Research, nearly one-quarter of Americans say they have no plans to retire. Another quarter of Americans believe they will continue working past their 65th birthday, while one in five people age 65 and older are actively looking for a job.

No matter which stage of life you’re in, retirement may seem like a financial hurdle too far. The good news is that you can put a plan in place today that will set you up for the future. See below for some helpful tips to get started:

1. Set a Goal

Before you can start saving effectively, you must first have a goal in mind. At what age do you plan on retiring? How much money do you need to live off per month? Do you want to travel the world or spend the days on a golf course? Answering these types of questions will help guide you in knowing how much money you’ll need to save and how long you have to accomplish these goals.

2. Start saving today, even if it’s small chunks of cash

Often, the biggest hurdle with saving funds is starting the process. Even if you have built out a plan, you’ll be going nowhere if you don’t put the plan into action by building up your savings. According to CNN Money, many financial planners recommend that you save at minimum 10% of your income for your retirement. However, the best advice is to save as much as you can. If you’re young and barely making ends meet, it might be too difficult to save 10% of your income. The trick is to start the savings habit early and increase the amount when either income increases or expenses decrease.

3. Build an emergency fund

Life is unpredictable and unexpected expenses will pop up. To help with these expenses, it’s good to have savings so you don’t have to go into debt and derail your retirement fund. The issue is that, according to GOBankingRates, the majority of adults in the United States have less than $1,000 in their savings account. Experts and financial institutions recommend households should contain 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses. By having that amount saved up, you’ll be in good shape even if your car breaks down or if you find yourself temporarily unemployed.

4. Pay down your debt

When you have high-interest consumer debt, paying it down first can help you solve ongoing problems with managing your money. Having a high-interest loan or credit card debt only hurts your bottom line, as you’re losing money to those companies managing your debt. To help get a hold of your debt, there are two proven methods to help achieve financial freedom sooner rather than later: the snowball and avalanche method.

The snowball debt method works by paying off debt accounts starting with the smallest balances first while paying the minimum payment on larger debts. Once the smallest debt is paid off, you use the extra funds to tackle the next highest debt.

The avalanche debt method focuses on paying off debt fast and saving money by targeting loans first that carry the highest interest rate. Like the snowball debt method, you’ll use the extra funds to target the loan with the next highest interest rate.

5. Invest Extra Income into Tax-Advantaged Accounts

You’ve tackled excessive debt and you’ve built an emergency fund. The next step is to put your added savings into a tax-advantaged savings account. To make a significant advance in your savings, Dave Ramsey recommends investing 15% of your gross income for retirement. There are a few different options to get started.

If your employer offers a traditional 401(k) with a match on contributions, you’ll want to at least invest the maximum needed to get the full investment that the organization will match. Remember, you’ll leave free money on the table if you don’t take advantage of this opportunity.

A second option is opening a Roth IRA. This account allows you to pay taxes on the money you put into it upfront. This is important, as it means that the growth in your Roth IRA and any withdrawals you make after age 59½ are tax-free. For 2019, you can put a maximum amount of $6,000 into an IRA (or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older).

The general rule of thumb for picking funds for these accounts is to find those that have a good track record over a period. If you’re unsure or feel stressed about picking the right funds for you, consider hiring a financial planner.

Although saving for retirement can be stressful at any age, the key is to start now. You’ll feel good about taking the first step and you’ll be setting your future self up for success.

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Brandon Osgood is a strategic communications and digital marketing professional based out of Raleigh, NC. Beyond being a passionate storyteller, Brandon is an avid classical musician with dreams of one day playing at Carnegie Hall. Interested in connecting? Email him at