Monday, January 31, 2011

Educating Our Youth and Young Workers about Saving and Retirement Plans

We're in the 21st century now. In fact, we have been for a while. And, as a group, our youth and our younger workers just don't get the concept of saving and of retirement plans. I'm not saying that all of the other generations have either, but teaching these people in today's world comes with different challenges than teaching, for example, my generation did.

Before I consider how we might do this, I am going to relate a conversation that I had with a highly intelligent 25-year old (if this individual is reading this, they will know it is them). I am going to refer to this person as Chris (it's an androgynous name, I don't know many people named Chris and I can alternate between he and she without changing meaning).Chris got a 4-year degree from an outstanding college, and he got a good job right out of college. But, when I was discussing her wonderful benefits program with her, she complained about the 401(k) plan. Chris said that while he knew it was right to be saving as much as he could in the plan, in his early 20s, he was afraid to be locking his money up for at least 35 years.

I explained about Roth 401(k) and after-tax money, but Chris' plan didn't have those options. She would like to own a home some day and start a family of her own. His 401(k) will be a detriment to that as all of his savings will be tied up. She makes valid points, but as a retirement plan professional, I say she doesn't quite get how important these savings are to being able to retire some day (I presume she wants to retire some day).

I don't know about Chris, but one of the things that I know about most 15 to 30 year olds is that they like games. They like video games, Wii, Xbox, PS3, and role-play games. And, they often learn from them. So, let's let them learn their way. We need video games and fantasy role play games that take people through work and life. They will react if their friends are enjoying their retirement, but they are still working at age 75 in these games.

It's the 21st century. While the basics remain the basics, the landscape of saving for retirement has changed. Career employment with one company is largely a thing of the past. The safety net of defined benefit plans is gone for most. And, in this new world, they need to learn their way.

Think about it.

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