I often use my friends as a small sampling for informal financial surveys. It usually happens sitting in front of a sports game, relaxing, and I try to introduce a financial topic. “That was a nice shot – Say…how’s the job going?” when I want to learn more about young adults’ employment aspirations. “You still paying off your massive student loans…?” when I want to learn more about student loans. I think I’m quite subtle, but in reality, I’m sure my friends see through my “subtleties” – especially now that I am talking about it on my blog.

While my friends’ actions are great for providing me inspiration and support for some of my thoughts about young adults and money, I have found recently that it is their INACTION that provides more material for me.

A recent trend from my informal surveys is that many young adults are not preparing for retirement, despite the huge advantage that young adults have. There are a number of different reasons for this inaction, including: not earning enough income, too much debt, not understanding the benefits, AND…

not knowing HOW to prepare for retirement.


Everyone’s situation is different, but if you are wanting to get ahead while you are young, here’s a list of moves you can make while in your twenties.

Most Important Retirement Moves While You’re Young

Get a Good Job

Graduating college with a four-year degree used to guarantee a great job. Those days are long gone. I’ve seen many of my college-graduate friends struggle to get a decent-paying job. I faced these struggles myself, but to a lesser extent. I graduated with a degree in the humanities field, which did not easily translate to a occupation. Instead, I used other skills and experience to advance.

It took me 3 years to accept what I would consider a decent-paying job, but I did it. I’m confident that this will be one of the most important steps to help me prepare for retirement. Not only will it mean a higher salary ten years from now, but more money to contribute to retirement accounts.

Learn how to invest

Having more money from a higher-paying job is the first step, but only the first step. After all, no matter how much you earn, if you do not invest properly or at all, you could lose money (either through bad investments or slowly due to inflation). Learning some of the basics for investing is the next step to preparing for retirement.

Take Advantage of Employer Retirement Accounts

If you secure a decent job, odds are that you will have the option to enroll in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. This can be one of the best vehicles to not only force yourself to save for retirement, but also take advantage of the tax benefits. This is, of course, not to mention the likely match by your employer.

Open up a Roth IRA

Other than using the employer-sponsored retirement account, you should also look into opening (and maxing out) a Roth IRA. If you are married, you should do this for both of you, unless you make too much money to qualify. Review the comprehensive Roth IRA guide for more details on the benefits. Using the Roth IRA to sock away money won’t help you with taxes now, but it will in retirement since all distributions are tax-free.

Pay off your debt

One of the best things you can do while in your 20s is to get rid of your debt. Whether it’s consumer debt or student loans, it will hinder your future flexibility and ability to save for retirement. Paying off your debt while you’re young provides you guaranteed returns and focusing on your debt can be great practice for saving a significant portion of your money. There’s no better time to form good habits than when you are young.

Control your spending

You can earn all of the money in the world and take advantage of certain retirement accounts, but if you do not know how to control your spending, none of that will matter. Start by creating a budget that is realistic and work towards keeping to that budget for an entire year. One you can accomplish this, you’re well on your way to a secure retirement.

Get Life Insurance

While it’s important to master the basics (spending, saving, investing, taxes, etc.), it’s also important to prepare for everything, including life insurance. I know what you’re thinking – “I’m young, I don’t need life insurance!” But, I would argue that getting life insurance while you are young can be a huge savings. Not only are you healthier in your 20s than any other age, thereby lowering your premiums, but it will also protect those who love you. Retirement isn’t just about setting yourself up for success, but your entire family. I got life insurance from Northwestern Mutual, but there are a lot of companies that offer life insurance.

Preparing for retirement while in your 20s is not an exact science – so you shouldn’t stress too much about following a precise path. Instead, it is more important to develop positive habits and start moving in the right direction. You will have plenty of time to make adjustments and figure out the details as you get closer to retirement.