The most common budget dilemma for millennials: knowing you need to save for retirement, but also knowing you have student loan bills rolling in.
While it can be tempting to simply pay off your college debt and skip saving for a retirement several decades away, prioritizing paying off college loans can end up hurting you in the long run.
According to a report from Morningstar, every dollar in student loan debt reduces your overall retirement savings by 35 cents –meaning that if you have $50,000 in student loan debt, you’ll end up losing $17,500 in retirement.
Of course, while it’s important and financially prudent to pay off student debt, it’s important to also put away money for your future. This is easier said than done, so here are the top tips to help you balance both pumping up your savings and decreasing your debt:
1. Make conscious choices. Review your credit card statement each month, and try to determine what things are necessities vs. things you can cut back on. If you need to pay off your student loans, consider sacrificing some “lifestyle” expenses like coffee or dinners out to ensure you can save for retirement at the same time.
2. Set up auto payments. Setting up auto payments towards retirement and student loans can make saving much easier, as you’ll be less likely to miss, or even notice, the money you’re putting away.
3. Create a budget. After setting up auto payments, take a look at the money you have left each month and map out a specific budget for things like groceries, rent and transportation costs.
4. Get your employer’s 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) match, if it’s offered. If your employer offers a one of these plans, participate in it—even if it’s a small amount. In most cases, your contributions will come directly from your paycheck, and after a couple of pay periods, you’ll forget that money is even missing. Of course, every few years you should reevaluate your savings strategy to ensure it’s keeping up with market trends and your risk tolerance – this may involve adding more conservative products like Fixed Indexed Annuities.