Getting fit for retirement: 6 steps millennials can take now

How much is enough?

Regardless of your current income, your 20s and 30s is the best time to start building for your future. But investing for a retirement that's 40 years away - all while trying to pay down student debt, save for a home, pay for a wedding or meet other important expenses - can feel overwhelming.

Plus, as a millennial, you face unique retirement planning challenges

You're at the forefront of generations who may be solely responsible for their own financial independence as they get older. You're part of what is now the largest generation alive. And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, you'll probably live a lot longer than today's retirees.

"By taking small steps today, you can help protect your financial future while still pursuing the goals that matter most to you now."

Realistically, retirement planning probably isn't the first thing on your mind right now. By taking small steps today, you can help protect your financial future while still pursuing the goals that matter most to you now.

Get fit: A 6-step retirement planning checklist for millennials

  1. Get started now (if you haven't already). Retirement savings are designed to grow over time, so the sooner you start, the better. Compounding interest works best when you start early and save consistently. Just a small amount regularly and automatically contributed may add up to a lot over time.
  2. Educate yourself. Gain the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about retirement investing whether you take a do-it-yourself approach or choose to consult a financial professional. The more you know, the better able you'll be to develop a strategy that will help you to build the lifestyle in retirement that you desire.
  3. Tackle your spending. Make wise spending decisions now so you won't have to struggle later. Remember that housing and transportation are two of the biggest costs you'll face over time. Before signing a lease or buying a home or car, think about the long-term costs and how they might impact your financial goals.
  4. Find as much as you can in your budget to invest. Many financial professionals recommend putting between 4%-9% of pre-tax income into retirement accounts each year, starting at age 25. If you are a high-income earner, contribute even more.
  5. If needed, seek help. Know what you don't know and ask for help if you need it. A financial professional can help you to calculate your retirement savings needs and develop a well-defined strategy based on how long you have to invest, your goals for the future and your changing needs. Don't forget to periodically update your strategy as your goals and circumstances will change over time.
  6. Try to increase your contributions over time. By increasing contributions to your retirement plan or account, you'll help reduce your current taxable income, lower your current tax bill and potentially reach your retirement goals sooner.

Live your life on your terms, now and 40 years from now.  If you're not already enrolled in your employer-sponsored retirement plan, you can start building your financial independence today.