It sounds like forever when you think about how many years you have between now and when you retire. There’s no way you’ll ever really reach 65, right? And what if you retire before 65? Not even worth thinking about at this point – we have too much to do right now with raising families, keeping jobs and trying to make ends meet.

But try as we might, you can’t make the reality of retirement disappear. It’s coming up, and it’s coming fast. For the forty-five-year-old worker who is raising children, settling into a career and looking at college accounts in the next few years, twenty years may seem like plenty of time to worry about retirement. You’re probably thinking like many of us do – I’ll worry about college and bills now. There’s plenty of time to think about retirement later.

But you’re wrong. You’re going to need every moment you have between now and then to plan for retirement. You’re already getting a late start as it is.

Every Moment and Every Nickel Counts

When you’re counting up your retirement savings, every moment that you’re able to save nickels counts. The power of compounding interest and the amount of time available to you are your biggest assets in this fight for retirement savings.

Putting away even $100 per month now will pay off enormously later on as you approach retirement age. It goes without saying that you should be putting way more than that aside, but if you’re not ready to invest 20 percent of your income in retirement savings, at least start putting something aside.

Each penny you’re able to contribute to your retirement account matters. It may not seem like much when you’re talking twenty or thirty dollars per paycheck, but here’s the reason it’s okay to start there. If you invest just $10 per month in a retirement account that returns 6 percent over the next twenty years, you’ll have $4,620 in your retirement account.

That sounds like small change when you think of the cost of retirement, but do a bit of math. That’s $10 per month. Invest $100 and you’ll have $46,204. Make that $1000 per month and you’ll have $462,040.90. Leave that money there another five years and you’ll have $693,000 to retire with. This is the power of the compound interest.

If you don’t have $1,000 per month to invest right now, work with what you do have. Find that $10 or that $100 in your budget and then keep looking for more ways to divert funds into your savings account. The more you save, the less you have to worry down the road.

The other reason it’s great to start with even a small amount of savings is that you simply get in the habit of saving. You’ll need to research the best investments for that small contribution, you’ll set up your automatic savings plan and you’ll send money to it every month. As your wages increase, your credit cards get paid off and you have more cash available, you’ll be able to send more and more without changing anything but one number.

Protect Your Priorities

As a society we are having children later in life. This means for many of us that we will be looking at college costs just five or ten years before we’re looking at retirement. As we established above, five to ten years isn’t enough time to really save what you need to save.

You’re going to have to make sacrifices. Let’s assume that you’ve cut out all of the unnecessary spending in your budget and you’ve paid down your credit card bills so that you’re not living beyond your means. You have money to save, and most likely you’re going to put it in your child’s college account. After all, college is expensive and you need to help her out as much as possible.

The only trouble with that is this: There are plenty of ways to pay for college. There aren’t any loans for retirement. If you’re putting your child’s college future ahead of your retirement, it seems like a selfless move.

But then stop to consider that you child is going to finish college and then almost immediately have to start subsidizing your retirement. As we all know by now, Social Security isn’t going to do much to keep our generation off the streets. If you don’t have money to pay those medical bills and to pay for rising home insurance costs, who is? Your child.

As much as your child would probably love for you to pay her way through college, she would love it even more if she wasn’t working to support you and her own family in her prime earning years. Do your kid a favor and explain how important it is to save for retirement first before college – especially with loans and grants available in that area. Once your savings goals are on track, feel free to go back to your college savings plans to enjoy the best of both worlds.

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