Why We Want Retirement but Not Saving for It

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To see it on display might set your hair on fire: early retirement, like by age 30. Its adherents are out there, though — financial independence, retire early, or FIRE. Though it can require some extreme lifestyle choices, proponents would rather enjoy their prime than toil in the metaphorical salt mines. For them, it seems to be worth it.

It does seem to circumvent Americans' No. 1 financial regret, which is far and away not saving properly for retirement. Millennials are notoriously bad at it, for a variety of perfectly understandable reasons, from mountains of debt to our general difficulty relating to our future selves. It may all seem overwhelming and pointless, between climate change, economic inequality, and fears about the future of Social Security.

You don't have to live like an M.I.A. hook to be a boss person, though, and you don't have to be a total square to live a comfortable life. Even with all the systemic issues we're up against, it's still possible to set realistic goals for retirement savings. State governments have been working to help residents set up for the future, and if you've amassed a trail of 401(k)s from various jobs over the years, that money can still do you a lot of good.

The cliché grates, but the second best time to start saving is right now. It's never too late: Of the adults surveyed who regretted not saving, at least 60 percent were either planning to address the issue within six months or had already done so.