As important as it was for me to plan and save for retirement, it is far more critical for you and others of your generation to do so. Unlike many in my generation, you cannot expect to enjoy 30 years of job security with one employer, with a guaranteed pension and gold watch waiting for you at your retirement party. Social Security, assuming it still exists when you reach retirement, will provide only a fraction of your income, at best. The price of procrastination—crushing debt, stress and isolation, the threat of homelessness, unhealthy dependence on others, being forced to work in your later years not by choice but out of necessity—is too high. But even higher is what we all lose, both individually and collectively, when we fail to contribute to our 401(k) accounts, put money into an IRA, or acquire stocks, bonds, insurance, and other investments. What’s lost is a chance to build a foundation of resources for future generations of African Americans—wealth that can pay for educations, capitalize businesses, and finance dreams. It’s called establishing a legacy, and it should be approached with purposeful enthusiasm, not reluctance and dread, especially by those of us who are passionate about Black Enterprise’s Wealth for Life mission.
Today—now—is the time to plan for your retirement. Now is the time to figure out, using any of a number of online calculators, how much money you’ll need to support the retirement you want. Now—not tomorrow, not next year or next decade—is the time to begin saving and investing to achieve your goals. The bottom line: You—not the government, and not your employer—must take responsibility for providing for your retirement. You cannot afford to put this off. You must start today, wherever you are, with whatever you have.