Graduates, save for more than retirement

Lots of people saving in a piggy bank

Steve Chiotakis: It's the time of the year for college graduates to get their diplomas and hear commencement speakers talk about taking risks and finding their inner muse.

So here's Marketplace economics editor Chris Farrell with advice of his own.


Chris Farrell: Save early. Save often.

OK, that catch phrase is hardly designed to bring goose bumps running up the spine of any audience. But it could. Think about it: Savings offers folks the opportunity to try several careers and multiple jobs over a lifetime. Savings gives us the practical freedom to translate passions into choices.

Unfortunately, over the past three decades with the rise of the 401(k), savings has become synonymous with retirement. Savings is something to be tapped in a distant time when we're much older.

Well, that's wrong.

Savings should be geared toward funding transitions over a lifetime and not just the last third. In practical terms, this means setting up an automatic savings program that regularly puts money -- no matter how little -- into taxable accounts. Set it up right away with your first job after graduating. The same holds if you're a 40-something or 50-something worker.

Here's the thing: Transitions are rarely easy and usually expensive. Whether you're in your 20s, your 40s or your 60s, it takes time to find a new job and a different career.

Sure, you've all probably seen or heard the cover story about someone who fled their $40,000-a-year dead-end job, and a year later, has found joy, owning their own rare vintage vineyard, muse to chefs everywhere. But for the rest of us, transitions are a period of trial and error, experimentation and effort, as we look for work that gives us greater meaning, allows us to use our talents to improve our community -- and provide an income. Yet that's the task millions and millions of people have given themselves, from newly minted college graduates seeking their first full-time job to aging baby boomers trying to establish their third career.

A program of safe savings gives everyone a measure of control in an uncertain world. Who knows where the stock market will be a decade from now or in three decades? A system of savings allows you to take risks and change course as your passions shift. That's a hefty return on investment in my book.


Chiotakis: Chris Farrell is Marketplace economics editor.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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