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In Their 20s and Saving for Retirement: How It Started, How It’s Going | Press "Enter" to skip to content

In Their 20s and Saving for Retirement: How It Started, How It’s Going

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One question now is whether, for those with stable jobs, the impulse to save will remain, and whether a sense of vulnerability means longer-lasting altered habits. Generation Z, those born after 1996, may encounter some of the same trends, Mr. Gale said, pointing out that there is a difference between how people deal with prospective uncertainty and current uncertainty.

“It’s natural to build up a stock of savings as a buffer and to either postpone major purchases or say, ‘We’re just going to do without,’” Mr. Gale said.

Some younger Americans have learned a few key lessons that are helping them save for retirement — as far away as that might feel.

Saving as much as possible has been a consistent goal for Mike Cassar, a 28-year-old insurance defense lawyer who became focused on retirement planning as soon as he landed his first job in 2017 in Michigan. Since then, he has managed to salt away a whopping amount: more than 70 percent of his income.

The key, he said, was keeping expenses low. He avoided taking on student loan debt by choosing a law school that offered him a scholarship covering 75 percent of his tuition and lived with his parents. After law school, he stayed on a tight budget, renting a small apartment in a building near the Michigan State campus, outside Lansing, filled mostly with college students. He drove a Ford Focus. And he socked away cash, watching his savings grow to more than $200,000 in retirement, investment and savings accounts.

More recently, Mr. Cassar has reached some personal milestones — some of them funded by those savings: He got married last September and bought a house in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills. He and his wife, Emily, 28, a nurse, save roughly half their income for retirement. And they feel secure.

But that sense of security was challenged. Last spring, as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, rocking job and capital markets, Mr. Cassar sold some investments, thinking he and his wife needed to increase their cash emergency fund.


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