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It’s hard to think about the future when you’re young. That’s just a fact. No twenty-something wants to think about getting old or, especially, dying. But you will get old someday (if you’re lucky), and death is a part of life. There is a lot of value in “living in the now” and being present and trusting that God or fate or whatever you believe in will take care of your future, but one of my favorite illustrations as to why trust isn’t enough is a joke that Will Smith’s son says in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. It goes like this:

There was a man who was drowning, and a boat came, and the man on the boat said, “Do you need help?” and the man said, “God will save me.” Then another boat came and he tried to help him, but he said, “God will save me.” Then he drowned and went to Heaven. Then the man told God, “God, why didn’t you save me?” and God said, “I sent you two boats, you dummy!”

A retirement fund isn’t just going to appear out of nowhere when you get to that age, and your wealth and possessions won’t distribute themselves when you die. There are some really simple structures in place to prepare yourself and protect your family’s future, and you have no excuse not to utilize them! Plus, the relief of knowing that your future is being taken care of allows you to live with a lot of freedom today!

Here are some things you should be thinking about now, no matter what age you are.

Paying off your debt

The best way to set yourself up for success is to become debt-free and stay that way. Debt will hold you back for as long as you have it. It’s really easy to think in terms of the present and buy that shiny new car because you can enjoy it right now, and the monthly payments are so much easier to swallow than the outright cost of the car. But there is delayed gratification in saving up and buying a car in cash that will set you up for a better future.

Starting and regularly investing in a retirement fund

The earlier you start a retirement fund, the more money it will make you over time. Putting the same amount of money into retirement at age 18 versus 30 will make you exponentially more money over time because of the beauty of compound interest. Whether your employer offers you a retirement fund or not, you need one! Even if you can’t contribute much to it on a regular basis right now, getting one started will get that compound interest rolling.

Creating a Will

Thinking about what will happen to your family and belongings when you die may not be the most uplifting task, but it’s a lot less heartbreaking to rip the band-aid off now than let your family suffer through the state of deciding what happens to them and all of your stuff after you die. You may be wondering where to start or how much it will cost you to create a Will, but FamilyWise.com offers an easy-to-use resource to create a free, legal Will in about 15 minutes. No excuses!

Getting life insurance

You may have life insurance through your employer, but whether you do or not, it’s important to think about what your family will be left with when you’re gone. If you have a spouse and/or kids, you should be looking into making sure your family is covered, especially if you’re the primary financial provider. Term life insurance allows you to pay a relatively low premium to insure your family for a certain amount of money over a set period of time. You may only need it until your kids are all out of the house or until you reach retirement.

  • BrokeGirl’sDiary

    Great article! 🙂 I’m convinced I need to follow these steps – but as your title says, I’m afraid that when I put away that much money, I’ll be limited on what I can do now in the present. I like your statement: “the relief of knowing that your future is being taken care of allows you to live with a lot of freedom today!” – but I’d like to see you speak even more on that! I’m still not convinced that planning for the future isn’t a big sacrifice on my “now.” For example – a couple hundred toward retirement or a couple hundred toward an acting class to improve my immediate job prospects? I have to choose one! Maybe you have another article you can refer me to?