At 20 years old, saving for retirement was my last priority until a mental shift made me realize that was what I had planned all along.

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  • As a cash-strapped 21 year old, I didn’t want to save for retirement.
  • But, as I began to understand that building long-term wealth and saving for retirement are exactly the same thing, I lowered my guard and opened two retirement accounts.
  • Instead of thinking of my Roth IRA contributions as retirement savings, I now see them as going towards my long-term wealth building goals, and I am much more motivated to do so.
  • Use Blooom to analyze your 401 (k) today and see how you can increase your retirement savings »

I am the first to admit that I had a bad attitude towards retirement savings in my early twenties.

I didn’t even open a 401 (k) at my first job outside of college. Like many other 21-year-olds, I paid student debt several times my annual salary. In my mind, I echoed a refrain I heard constantly as a kid – I’ll never be able to save enough to retire anyway.

I also had a biased view of retirement which did not help the cause. The only feeling of retirement I knew did not please me. I grew up with my retired grandmother, who always seemed a little crazy in her golden years. The highlights of her week were taking kids to school and picking them up and running errands. Like me, she likes to have a job. She seemed to lack work. I vowed to keep writing until my hands could no longer operate a keyboard.

So, 21, I thought to myself that would free me from future boredom and the need to save for retirement. I thought I should start investing, however, to have a cushion for the future. I didn’t want to totally miss the opportunity to start creating long-term wealth while I was young. Instead of opening a Roth IRA like I should for this purpose, I opened a taxable individual investment account, an account that does not take advantage of the tax benefits of retirement accounts. Looking back, I think I did this just because the account name didn’t imply a retirement.

It was the term “saving for retirement” that tripped me. If it was called “investing for the future”, I would probably have listened earlier. But I didn’t understand that saving for retirement is build long-term wealth.

Talking to retirees living their dreams made me think differently about retirement

I always thought that retirement savings would go directly to health expenses and groceries. But it’s not: those savings can create enough wealth to help you live a good life later. When I first started talking to retirees about Business Insider’s Real Retirement series, I discovered that these ordinary people were using their retirement savings to do amazing things. They travel the world with their partner, write the book they always wanted, live abroad, and do things that professional life doesn’t easily allow them to do.

It inspired me to change my attitude. They all built the long-term wealth they needed to do these things. If I wanted a part of this adventure, I would have to follow the program.

This individual taxable investment account was a start, but I have since evolved. I gave up the attitude and opened a 401 (k) and a Roth IRA. I began to see each contribution to my Roth IRA as a contribution to my long-term wealth, rather than just savings that I would someday use in the doctor’s offices and the grocery store. While this is probably still part of it, there is still so much I want to do in 40 years. And the sooner I start, the more I will have to do.

While I, at 21, would be incredulous, she would get the point. I am saving for the future, whatever that may sound like. Although the accounts say I’m saving for retirement, my goal is still exactly what I wanted from the start.

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