I may be a little late to the party, but I thought I would chime in on some very good points.First, amybody who is 23 today and is asking these kinds of questions ought to be commended. I have been developing a mentor project reaching out to the 20 to 34 age group and have done a study of what makes this generation different from mine, and it is fascinating at one level, yet frightening at another The matkrs of an adult are generally onsidered to be the achievement of: (1) independent thinking, (2) accepting personal responsibility, and (3) being financially independent. Most of the 20-34's these days don't achieve that until they are around 30 - almost 10 years later than my generation. (If you want a perspective on this trend, read Gail Shehy's book entitled New Passages)I know from informal surveys that 80% of this age group would love to have a mentor. Problem is that the above 45 age group don't see this need so there is a disconnect. I hope to make inroads on that.For my perspective, I got married at age 21. That was 46 years ago, three children and 9 grandchildren ago (every one of them is precious, by the way). I was in law school at the time. Careers were linear - the number of times you changed jobs over a career was probably no more than 2 or 3, which now is more like 5 or 6. Still, I didn't think about retirement then - it wasn't on my radar screen. As I went through life, though, I did set goals - some financial, some personal. My first goal was for my children - to edcuate them as far as they wanted or were willing to go. Only one of mine went to graduate school - an MBA. Along the way, I did invest but very sparingly in equities, and when IRA's and 401k's became popular, I generally maxed out my annual contribution. For this coming generation, you can assume that social security will not provide you much, and I would certainly not plan on it being a component of your retirement years. While some have advocated that you need to start young and not play catchup, I would generally agree with those recommendations, but once you reach 50, you are permitted to make "catch up" contributions to both IRA's and 401Ks. I don't recommend counting on those to get you to where you want to be, but I did want to point out that the opportunity exists.The one thing that will permit me to reach my financial goals is that our family basically never made a significant change of our lifestyle over my career. We could have, but chose not to - it wasn't us. Instead of having a house at the beach, or lake, or mountains, we chose instead to travel with our kids - we went all over Europe several times. My oldest son (Otter) used that as a springboard and now has been to well over 100 countries. Now that I am not subsidizing that wanderlust, I am rooting for him to keep it up.While this post is short on specifics, it is long on perspective - really a view from the other side of the canyon. With the able help of Motley Fool over the past 14 years, and the watchful eye of my son, I've achieved my financial retirement goals. Sadly, most boomers are not going to enjoy life in retirement. The statistics are that the average Baby Boomer has only $77,000 in their retirement nest egg, which means a heavy reliance on Social Security. I guess I would basically point out the obvious - learn from their mistakes! Most of them assumed that retirement would take care of itself, and didn't think about it when they were 23, like you. Just my $.02.Otterpater
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