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A colleague recently referenced an article indicating the average American begins to take his or her financial planning seriously at 36 years of age. Experience tells us this is often later in Northwest Indiana because of the prevalence of pensions and the supposed long-term security they provide.

While this varies between individuals based upon their upbringing, education and experiences with money, the statistic illustrates many Millennials are waiting too long before consulting a professional and entering the world of financial planning.

The delay, we have discovered, is caused by a variety of reasons including the perceived complexity of how and where to start, as well as the pain and process of sorting through competing demands for dollars. That said, humankind of all ages struggle to overcome the chief obstacle of saving money: the inability to delay gratification.

Saving and planning early has never been more important for a generation than it is for those of us classified as Millennials. The uncertainty around pensions and Social Security mixed with longer life expectancies and couples starting families later, is creating the perfect storm. In fact, Millennials may find themselves with parents and children in a simultaneous period of dependency.

Below are four starting points for beginners to consider as they move toward taking the first step in creating their financial security.

• Establish an emergency fund: We all know the unexpected occurs and have been subject to the famous Murphy’s Law that states “what can go wrong, will go wrong.” Having three to six months of liquidity makes those times much less stressful.

• Take advantage of group/employer sponsored disability insurance and supplement privately: The income earning ability afforded to us by good health represents our greatest financial asset. A 25-year-old earning $50,000 with an annual three-percent cost of living adjustment would earn nearly $4 million over their lifetime. Most employers offer long-term disability income insurance (often 50-60 percent income replacement) which can and should be supplemented for pennies on the dollar through private insurance.

• Buy life insurance: There are different kinds of life insurance with varying costs and benefits, but make no mistake, the premiums are mostly a function of age and health. You’ll never be younger and likely never healthier. Buy now.

• Compound interest: I believe it to be true that compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. Consider the following example, assuming an eight percent rate of return:

Person 1: A 25-year-old begins to invest $2,500 per year. When she reaches the age of 65, she will have invested $100,000 over a 40-year period with an account balance of approximately $700,000.

Person 2: A 35-year-old begins to invest $3,500 per year. When he reaches the age of 65, he will have invested $105,000 over a 30-year period with an account balance of approximately $400,000.

The process of starting early does not suggest that one must stop living for today to plan for tomorrow. Rather, it requires a person to delay just enough present-day gratification to ensure a future life by design rather than by default.

John Dawson is a financial adviser and managing director and is a chartered financial consultant and chartered life underwriter. He is a district agent of Northwestern Mutual and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Co. with an office in Crown Point. The opinions are the writers.

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