When it comes to retirement savings, “check yourself before you wreck yourself” can go a long way if applied early on. There are so many investing tips and tricks out there that it can be easier to start with the “don’t dos,” which is what I aim for today. Consider these three concepts to curb bad behavior and then step out boldly on the path to doing what you need to get your future in order.

  1. Analysis paralysis. There are so many options – stocks, bonds, funds, futures, ETFs, whatever – what’s a sister to do? To start, don’t let the options overwhelm you and prevent you from investing. There are indeed many ways to invest in the markets. They are indeed not all considered equal. Fortunately, if you’re focused on long-term investments for retirement, you can narrow in pretty quickly on what types of investments are correct for you. If you’re in your twenties, you’ll want to put about 90% of your retirement in stocks and 10% in bonds. To make things even easier, and safer, choose a stock fund and a bond fund. A fund is a collection of many stocks or bonds, which lowers your risk by spreading your investment across the stocks or bonds of multiple companies. The absolute simplest asset allocation you need to get started is one fund that tracks the broader stock market, like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, and another fund that does the same for the bond market, like the company’s Total Bond Market Fund. Ninety percent of your money of one, ten percent in the other. Simple.
  2. Thinking retirement savings doesn’t apply to you. Let’s face it, can you trust anyone in Congress to right the ship and stop dipping into Social Security? Where is your retirement money coming from, an “assured” inheritance? Don’t take your own future for granted. You’re not too young, you’re not too safe, you’re not too poor (probably) to start saving for retirement. The longer you wait, the more you lose out on the benefit of compound interest, and therefore the less free money you get for your future. Make an effort to start saving as early possible, or else you’ll need to put more away later through a desperate game of catchup.
  3. Being put off by the paperwork. I get it, but no. It is certainly be annoying to wade through pages of financial jargon and teach yourself new, even confusing concepts. Our financial institutions are not good at explaining topics like 401(k)s in simple language, and our schools don’t have personal financial education to help. Still, you’re smart, you have friends and family who are smart, and you have an Internet connection somewhere near you. And you have this blog! You can and will figure this out.

Have you faced any of these barriers? Is there one that I’m missing? Leave a comment!