Financial Readiness


Investing: Start as soon as possible! If you start investing at age 21, instead of waiting until age 29, you will roughly double your money if you retire at age 65. If you need $50,000 per year and you live 20 years beyond retirement, you will need at least one million dollars.

Investment Options:

Pension Plan: Employers pay you a guaranteed lifetime income when you retire. Amount of payout depends on various factors. These plans are becoming less common.

401(k), 403(b), and 457 Plans: 401(k) plans (for private organizations), 403(b) plans (for non-profit, tax exempt organizations), and 457 plans (for government agencies and some non-profit organizations) allow you to make tax-free contributions (up to a specified amount) and go untaxed until you retire or take the money out.

  • Some employers match your contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary. If so, take full advantage of employer matching. Also, this can be a major factor in choosing one job over another.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA): This is a plan that you set up, and your employer has nothing to do with it. You can only contribute $5,500 per year (as of 2013). There are two types:

  • Traditional IRA: Similar to a 401k, this has tax deductible contributions (depending on income level), withdraws begin at age 59.5 (withdrawals before age 59.5 subject to penalty), and taxes are paid on principal and gains when withdrawn.
  • Roth IRA: Contributions are not tax deductible, withdrawals after age 59.5 are tax free, and principal contributions (not gains) can be withdrawn any time without penalty (some limitations and exceptions).

Withdrawing Funds Early: This will result in a 10% penalty (with some exceptions) in addition to the funds being taxable income. Because of this significant loss, it’s rare that people withdraw funds before age 59.5.

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