Everyone has his own picture of what a successful retirement looks like, but most people would include good health, a pleasant living situation and enough money to live on. Determining your own benchmarks for retirement success while you’re still young and early in your working career can make it easier for you to reach those goals. The things you do now can have a bigger effect on your retirement than if you wait until you’re near retirement age to act.
Though you can’t know now how much money you’ll need to enjoy a comfortable retirement, any money you set aside for retirement now will yield big dividends that can help fund your later years. Financial planners refer to the 10-year rule to show how saving every month for 10 years when you’re in your 20s, then stopping, will yield you more money in your retirement than if you wait until you’re 40 to start saving. If you saved only $100 a month, your savings would grow to $162,213 by the time you reach 65, even if you didn’t save anything else after the first 10 years. The person who started saving $100 a month at 40 would have only about $59,799 at age 65. These figures are based on historical averages for savings.
Being sick and old is no fun, and chronic illness can drain your finances. "Senior Living" magazine ranked health above wealth in its list of keys to a successful retirement. Though you can’t guarantee you won’t be hit by a chronic disease, the habits you develop in youth can influence how you age. Not smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can all contribute to keeping you active and healthy in your retirement years. Finding a form of exercise you enjoy, whether a sport like basketball or an activity such as dance, can help you stay active well into your retirement years.
"Senior Living" magazine notes that the happiest seniors have strong social connections with friends, family and their communities. A stable marriage, maintaining close connections with your children, siblings and parents are all things you can work on while you’re young. Volunteering in your community and taking time to keep close to friends and to explore new friendships will make life more enjoyable for you now and when you’re older. Belonging to organizations, whether a religious affiliation or a club, also offers a support group for you now and in your later years.
The happiest, healthiest retirees have developed interests outside the job they retire from. They have interesting hobbies, develop new business ideas, read, or go back to school. When you’re young and focused on building your family and your career, it’s harder to set aside time to pursue other interests, but doing so can pay big dividends later in life as you continue the habit of staying mentally active and involved.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.