Financial Planner Shares Millennial Clients' Retirement Mistakes

September 24, 2021

Millennials have many years before retirement, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be saving. 

And when it comes to saving, it needs to be done the right way. But many millennials are making mistakes when it comes to saving for retirement, according to financial planner Mamie Wheaton of LearnLux.

Wheaton told Insider there are four mistakes she sees her millennial clients make time and time again

1. They put paying off student loans above saving for retirement when they should be equal priorities

While many millennials want to pay off their student loans, that can't be their only priority. Wheaton said that saving for retirement needs to be weighted equally.

While many people think it's a good idea to finish paying off student loans first, it really isn't, Wheaton explained. By waiting to save, you miss out on time for money to grow in the market with

compound interest
. That could put you behind the curve on your retirement savings, and mean smaller savings later to live on. 

"My favorite phrase is, 'You can't take a loan out for retirement,'" said Wheaton.

Paying student loans and saving for retirement at the same time is the smarter option. That way, you can get the benefits of compound interest on your retirement savings while still paying down loans.

2. They prioritize their children's education over retirement savings

Like paying your own loans at the expense of your retirement savings, saving for a child's future education before saving for retirement is another mistake millennials make all too often. 

"A lot of these millennials might've been strapped with student loans themselves, so they don't want that for their children," Wheaton said. "So they make it a priority to save for their children's education, which is wonderful, but they do it to the detriment of their own retirement."

Starting to save for retirement and a child's education simultaneously is the right move, and can help be sure both goals are met. However, if there isn't enough money for both, prioritize your own retirement.

3. They forget about their old 401(k) accounts when they move jobs

When you leave a job, you should be thinking about your 401(k). 

"You want to make sure you keep track of it and you always know where any old retirement money is," she said. "You're going to want to check in with your retirement plans on an annual basis to make sure that you're in the right allocation."

You'll also want to make sure your money is invested appropriately and in a way that matches your risk tolerance and the number of years you have before you retire, Wheaton said. 

To make the process easier, you can rollover money from old 401(k) accounts into a more easily accessible IRA or a new 401(k). 

4. They sell off investments when the market takes a downturn

Wheaton said that one of the big mistakes she sees millennials make is a major one: selling off investments whenever the market drops. 

That's simply not the best long-term move for your money. "Market downturns can actually be a great time for contributions to go into your 401(k) because [you're] purchasing those funds at a lower cost and a lower price. So when the market does eventually go back up, you have more growth opportunities," she said. 

Her advice to millennials is to keep holding onto what you have — the longer you hold investments, the more the ups and downs of the market won't matter.