July 23


Retirement Planning 2.0: How Young Adults Today Are Breaking the Mold

By Harrison O'Reill

July 23, 2023

Retirement planning is a topic that is often associated with older adults. However, with the changing landscape of work, finance, and Social Security, it is crucial for young adults to start thinking about their retirement as well. The way young adults approach retirement planning today is different from past generations.

So how do the youth do it? How do they change the retirement landscape? What do they face as challenges along the way? And how can they overcome these?

Changing Retirement Landscape

The points below are the changes that youth create in their retirement landscape.

Shift from Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution Plans

In the past, many employers offer defined benefit pension plans, which provided a guaranteed income for life in retirement.

However, today most employers offer defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, which require employees to contribute a portion of their salary and make investment decisions. This shift places more responsibility on young adults to save and invest for their retirement.

Importance of Personal Responsibility

As a young adult, it is important to take personal responsibility for your retirement planning. This means starting to save and invest early, setting goals, and regularly monitoring your progress.

With the changing retirement landscape, it’s more important than ever to take control of your financial future.

Challenges Faced by Young Adults

The points below are the challenges faced by young adults nowadays.

Student Loan Debt

If you are a young adult planning for retirement, you are likely dealing with student loan debt. According to the Federal Reserve, student loan debt in the United States has reached $1.7 trillion (in December 2022).

This debt can make it challenging to save for retirement, as you may have to allocate more of your income toward paying off your loans. It’s essential to create a budget that takes your student loan payments into account and look for ways to reduce your debt.

Rising Cost of Living

Another challenge faced by young adults is the rising cost of living. The cost of housing, healthcare, and education has increased significantly over the past few decades, making it difficult to save for retirement.

It’s important to create a budget that takes into account the cost of living in your area and adjust your retirement savings accordingly. You may need to consider living in a more affordable area or downsizing your home to save money.

Uncertainty of Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits are an essential part of retirement planning, but young adults face uncertainty about the future of these benefits.

The Social Security trust fund is projected to run out by 2035, which means that benefits may be reduced in the future. It’s important to plan for retirement without relying solely on Social Security benefits. Consider investing in a 401(k) or IRA to supplement your retirement income.

Retirement Planning Strategies for Young Adults

The strategies below are options for young adults to utilize to ensure a safer future.


Start Early

One of the best retirement planning strategies for young adults is to start saving early. The earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow. Even if you can only afford to save a small amount each month, it can add up over time. Consider using a retirement savings calculator to determine how much you need to save each month to reach your retirement goals.

Maximize Employer-Sponsored Plans

If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k), be sure to take advantage of it. Many employers offer matching contributions, which means they will match a percentage of your contributions.

This is essentially free money, so be sure to contribute enough to take full advantage of the match.

Invest in a Diverse Portfolio

When it comes to investing for retirement, it’s important to have a diverse portfolio. This means investing in a mix of stocks, bonds, and other assets. Diversification can help reduce risk and increase returns over the long term.

Consider working with a financial advisor to help you build a diversified portfolio that aligns with your risk tolerance and retirement goals.

Consider Alternative Retirement Savings Options

In addition to traditional retirement savings accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, there are other options to consider. For example, you could invest in real estate or start a side business that generates passive income. These alternative options can provide additional sources of retirement income and help diversify your portfolio.

Remember, the key to successful retirement planning is to start early, take advantage of employer-sponsored plans, diversify your portfolio, and consider alternative savings options. By following these strategies, you can set yourself up for a comfortable retirement and enjoy your golden years to the fullest.


In conclusion, retirement planning for young adults today is vastly different from past generations. With increasing life expectancies and uncertain economic conditions, it is crucial to start planning for retirement as early as possible. Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

Social Security is not enough. Social Security benefits alone may not be enough to sustain you in retirement, so it is important to consider other sources of income, such as employer-sponsored retirement plans and personal savings.

Investing is essential. Investing in a diversified portfolio can help you grow your wealth over time and combat inflation. However, it is important to start investing early and to seek professional advice to ensure that your investments align with your goals and risk tolerance.

Debt can hinder your retirement. High levels of debt can hinder your ability to save for retirement, so it is important to prioritize paying off debt as soon as possible.

Retirement planning is a lifelong process. Retirement planning is not a one-time event but rather a lifelong process that requires ongoing adjustments and monitoring. Regularly reviewing your retirement plan can help ensure that you stay on track to meet your goals.

By taking these factors into consideration and creating a comprehensive retirement plan, you can set yourself up for a secure and comfortable retirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about this topic.

How does retirement planning differ for young adults today?

Retirement planning for young adults today is different from past generations due to various factors. One of the most significant differences is the shift from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s.

This means that young adults today are responsible for managing their retirement savings rather than relying on their employers to provide a guaranteed retirement income.

When should you start saving for retirement?

It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. The earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow. Financial experts recommend that young adults start saving for retirement as soon as they begin their careers, even if it’s just a small amount each month.

The power of compound interest can significantly increase your retirement savings over time.

How much should you save for retirement?

The amount you should save for retirement depends on various factors, such as your desired retirement lifestyle, expected retirement age, and current income. A general rule of thumb is to save 15% of your income for retirement.

However, this may not be feasible for everyone. It’s essential to create a retirement plan that works for your unique situation and adjust it as necessary.

What are some retirement planning mistakes to avoid?

One common retirement planning mistake is not starting early enough. Another is not saving enough for retirement. It’s also crucial to avoid relying on Social Security as your only source of retirement income.

Additionally, it’s essential to avoid taking on too much debt, as this can significantly impact your retirement savings. Finally, it’s crucial to regularly review and adjust your retirement plan to ensure it stays on track.

You might also like