Many times in life, there comes the realization that certain things that were done with utmost seriousness never actually mattered. In high school, students realize their grades from middle school won’t affect their future. In college, it’s the realization that GPAs don’t mean much. For one thing, it doesn’t affect a student’s ability to get into any of their classes — in fact, nothing but enrollment time and luck seem to matter.
This realization could easily be the downfall of those who ponder it for too long. After graduation, with what many deem “real life” quickly approaching, one has to wonder what will actually matter in their future. Their resume will matter, if they want to get a good job. A good job will matter, if they want to feel secure in their life. Security will matter, if they want the happiness that comes with ease.
But what’s really going to matter, and what many people don’t realize, or learn but then quickly forget after they’ve escaped the torrent of general education classes in their first year at JMU, is that it’s while they’re still young and fresh out of college that they need to start thinking about retirement. That’s possibly the most horrifying thought for a generation full of self-claimed procrastinators. In a perfect world, retirement would be something that wouldn’t have to be thought about until after it’s already happened.
Unfortunately, it’s something that needs to be thought about now. While social security is a nice cushion for the years after employees leave the workforce, it won’t be enough by the time this graduating class gets to be that age. Even now, it’s not enough. The fact of the matter is that there aren’t enough people in the workforce to generate the same amount of social security that retirees have put in over their lifetime. This is because not too long ago, many men were working while their wives were at home, meaning that two people are now drawing from social security when only one of them paid into it.
For someone to ensure security for their future, they need to plan their retirement. First and foremost, this means getting a steady job, setting aside a security fund, making sure there’s enough left to go to rent and living expenses and then making sure there’s even more still after that to be put away for a future version of themselves.
This is where that hard work from all those menial tasks of growing up come back into play. It’s going to take more restraint than many are capable of to set aside the tantalizing thought of immediate reward and instead save for the future. Regardless, it’s crucial that this step of the process takes place now instead of later. Someone who puts away $1,000 every month starting 10 years after graduation until their retirement will still end up with much less than someone who started putting away $500 per month right out of college. This is all because of compound interest.
If graduating students use their years of discipline learned from meaningless work in grade school and endless studying during finals week to put away portions of their money — which will compound, grow and do all the hard work by itself — then they will enjoy a much more satisfying retirement. Even better, these graduates should take advantage of the 401(k)s at their new jobs if they’re offered. This is a system in which employers typically match their employees’ retirement deposits dollar-for-dollar up to a certain percent — usually 5%. This system is figured on gross income, and anyone who doesn’t participate is giving up free money and an earlier retirement date.
Entering the real world is equally daunting as it is exciting, but anyone can obtain a life full of success with enough discipline. So graduates, heed this advice: while ignoring the idea of worrying about retirement sounds tempting, there’ll be much less worrying in the long run if something is done about it now. And don’t worry, going to college wasn’t one of those things that didn’t actually matter.
Jillian Carey is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at email@example.com