I got let go from my job 6 weeks after my husband and I split up. We had shared custody of our two kids and we both worked in the same field
with the same qualifications so there was no child or spousal support going
Suffice it to say that I didn’t have any discretionary money and things like retirement savings contributions fell to the bottom of the priority list.
I was fortunate in that I got a new job before my 5 weeks severance was up so I didn’t actually lose a paycheque but I didn’t get have any severance left either. And, all of my savings had been used to set up a new household.
My new company had a pretty good group retirement savings plan and, even better, the company would match contributions up to an annual maximum of $5000. Seriously though, with rent, a car payment, daycare and daily care for
2 small kids, some credit card debt . . . there simply wasn’t anything left, much less $5000!
Time went by and there was always a reason the retirement savings had to wait:
• business is slow – I might lose my job again • before & after school care for 2 kids • summer camp • buying a house and stop renting • my vehicle died and I had to get a new one • I got invited to New York City for a wedding • the kids deserve a trip to DisneyWorld . . .
Seriously folks, I’ve got a million of them. We could be here all night, don’t forget to tip your waitress.
It was now 11 years later and I still hadn’t signed up.
A funny thing happens on the way to 50. When you finally cross that line from 49 to 50 years old, retirement becomes an ever nearing eventuality rather than something in the distant future.
I looked at the plan again and spoke to HR. The plan doesn’t allow me to make up the time lost but I could no longer come up with a good reason not to sign up. If I am here for 11 more years and let’s say I can only afford to contribute $3000 per year, my company will match that amount gaining me $33,000 of FREE money.
(visualize me kicking myself in the ass right now)
I lost out on some free money but I’m not a big fan of wasting time on regret. All I can do is think about now and about my future.
It’s not too late to enrol in the company program and take advantage for as long as I can. So I’m in now and have already made a few contributions.
The only downside to this program is that you are very limited in the kind of investments your money is going to and you don’t have a lot of control but I think the benefit of contribution matching outweighs this downside.
Even if I don’t make any money at all on the actual investment (and I certainly won’t make much because I chose the “no risk” option of investing and that equals “low returns”), I have already doubled my money with the employer contribution.
So, what I’m saying is that it’s not too late! IF you have a company retirement savings plan and you’re not involved, I urge you to check it out – – even if you don’t think you have any money.
What I didn’t know 11 years ago is that I didn’t have to contribute $5000 per year. I could have gone as low as 1% of my annual salary if that was all I could afford. Although it may not have added up to $5000, my company would still have matched my contribution dollar for dollar.
If I had known that, it may have been more difficult to come up with excuses for not participating.
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