Perhaps the most frequently-asked question of all retirement planning FAQs is this: when should I start saving for retirement? The answer is simple: yesterday! (As soon as possible!)

According to a 2016 survey by Time Magazine, 1 in 3 Americans has $0 – none – zilch – nada – saved for retirement. That’s 33 ⅓ percent of the population – don’t let yourself be one of them!

It’s never too early to begin saving for retirement, whether you are 20 or 60. Beginning a disciplined savings plan early allows you to take advantage of the power of compound interest over time, which is every saver’s No. 1 asset when it comes to planning for retirement.

If you are beginning your first job out of high school or college, consult with your employer’s Human Resources or Employee Benefits department to see if a retirement savings plan is offered. Common plans include 401(k)/Roth 401(k), 403(b), 457, SIMPLE, SEP, etc. Research if an employer match is offered on employee contributions, and be sure to contribute at least the minimum percentage or dollar amount needed to qualify for the employer match – it’s free money!

If you are working in a career that does not offer a formal retirement savings plan (many service industry, part-time, and seasonal positions), begin setting aside at least 10 percent of your weekly or monthly pay and consider establishing an IRA or Roth IRA as a savings and investment vehicle. You could get a break on your income taxes for contributing to a retirement account if your employer does not offer a retirement plan. Consult with your accountant/tax preparer for more details.

If you are age 50 or older, whether you have been a good saver in the past or not, you are allowed to make extra 401(k) contributions called “Catch-Up Contributions” to your plan – make an appointment with your Human Resources or Employee Benefits representative to learn more and to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to make those extra savings count in those crucial last several years before retirement.

Simply put, save early and save often to best take advantage of compound interest over time – a tremendously powerful tool to aid in your retirement planning. Anything is better than nothing – don’t be part of the one-third of Americans who are failing to plan for the next stage after the working world. As the adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail!

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