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For some, retirement can seem so far into the future that it isn't worth addressing today. However, many would say that you can't get started early enough, because the sooner you start, the sooner you may be able to retire.
According to a 2020 Statista survey, 41% of Americans have less than $100,000 saved for retirement. And with the diminishing aid of pensions and Social Security, this leaves future generations in a vulnerable position of not having enough money to support their post-work lifestyles.
Fortunately there's ample opportunity to begin saving for retirement today. And with a few simple moves and commitments, you can rest peacefully knowing you're giving yourself a chance to retire comfortably — and even possibly retire early.
Select details three tax-advantaged retirement accounts you can begin to fill, and what to keep in mind with each one.
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It's important to remember there isn't one clear-cut way to save for retirement. But it's likely not going to happen by stashing away money in a savings account, especially with record-low interest rates and high inflation. You must invest to reach your retirement goals. The accounts below each allow you to grow your wealth through the market, plus they allow for special tax benefits.
While investing in the stock market sounds treacherous, investing in simple, low-cost index funds can give you consistent returns over the long-haul. For myself, I have each one of these accounts, and invest in indices that track the S&P 500. And once I decide to retire, my money will have been compounding for roughly 30 years.
But even if you're closer to your desired retirement age, there's still plenty of opportunity to build your retirement savings today. Here are the three accounts you may want to consider.
1) Health Savings Account (HSA)
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an account where consumers with a high deductible health plan (HDHP) can put money away for future medical expenses. Here's how it works:
If your employer offers an HSA and you have a HDHP, you can elect to have part of your paycheck taken out pre-tax and put into an HSA. You can use these funds to be reimbursed for qualified medical expenses, or, you can invest the money in stocks, bonds or index funds as well.
And the kicker is that your money grows tax-free, as long as you use the funds for medical expenses. If you decide to use this as a retirement account, you can pull money out after 65 years old fee-free. You will just need to pay ordinary income tax on it, but you can use the money as you'd like and don't necessarily have to put it towards medical expenses.
This account is sometimes referred to as "triple tax advantaged" because money goes in tax-free, grows tax-free and can be taken out tax-free as long as it meets certain criteria.
In 2022, the deposit limits are $3,650 for single-filers and $7,300 for families. This is up slightly from 2021.
Note: If your employer doesn't have a HSA option, you can open an HSA yourself and you will earn a tax write-off for your contributions. I have my own personal HSA through Lively.
A 401(k) is an account offered by employers where you can put pre-tax money away for retirement. In some cases, your employer may even offer a dollar-for-dollar match, which is essentially "free money" to incentivize you to save.
However, the account comes with a few rules. You can only withdraw funds from your 401(k) (without incurring a penalty) once you reach the age of 59½. When you start withdrawing, you'll need to pay ordinary income tax on that money. And if you decide to not touch your 401(k) and want compound interest to continue working for you, you're still required to take distributions by Apr. 1 following the year when you turn 72.
In 2022, the deposit limit is $20,500, which does not include any matching dollars offered by your employer.
Note: If your employer doesn't offer a 401(k), you may want to open a traditional IRA, which offers similar benefits. You can contribute $6,000 per year to an IRA in 2022.
3) Roth IRA
A Roth IRA is a retirement account offered by several brokerages like Fidelity and Vanguard where you can invest post-tax money now and enjoy tax advantages when you retire. At the beginning, the account offers no tax incentives as you'll invest income that's already been taxed. However, there are excellent tax breaks on the back end, because all of the money, including gains, is not taxed when you withdraw your funds, which you can do once you're 59½ years old.
But if you need some flexibility, you can withdraw your contributions at any time with no penalty. So if you deposit $1,000 into a Roth IRA and invest it, and the balance grows to $1,200, you can pull the $1,000 back out with no fees or penalties.
In 2022, the deposit limit is $6,000 per person.
If you want a hands-off approach to investing, you can open a Roth IRA with a robo-advisor who will create you a custom portfolio based on your risk tolerance and retirement date. Robo-advisors like Wealthfront, Betterment and SoFi will adjust your investments over time as you get closer to your target date.
All three of these accounts give you the ability to legally avoid taxes and invest in the stock market to set yourself up for retirement. Here's what that looks like for your wallet:
As an example, let's say you max out each of these account in 2022 as a single-filer. That would be a $30,150 in the stock market (assuming no employer match for 401k), and with a modest 7% average rate of return over 30 years, that investment will be worth nearly $230,000.
As another example, lets say you were able to invest $15,000 per year between all three accounts over the next 30 years. Assuming 7% growth, that would leave you with just over $1.5 million for a total investment of $450,000. And if you decided to do it for 35 years, your end result would be over $2.2 million.
Compound interest is built on a key factor: time. The longer your money has time in the market to work for you, the more it will compound and grow.
While saving for retirement is something that can be put off for a later date, it's never too early to get started. And by putting it off, you're giving your dollar bills less time to compound in the market.
So if you're still arranging your financial goals for the year, be sure to consider focusing some of your effort on these accounts — as long as your high-interest debts are paid down and you have a well-balanced budget.