June is the season of graduation parties. Whether they'releaving high school or college, young minds depart theclassroom full of vigor, ambition, and missing the one thing that'smost important to them. Yes, we teach them to look to the nextlevel. We provide them with so much self-esteem that they come outbrimming with confidence and high expectations. They're ready andwilling to tackle new jobs, higher education, and a world they'vebeen told is waiting for them with open arms.

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Alas, amidst this unbridled enthusiasm sits an easily attainablegoal, all alone in a dimly lit corner. Aside from cobwebs and dust,its only covering is a faded sticky note with the words “open later– we have time” scrawled on it. This is the goal we like to call“comfortable retirement.”

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We humans are a resilient species. We can accomplish almostanything given enough time, resources, and hard work.Unfortunately, we are also a species that likes to eat, drink, andbe merry. We often put off to tomorrow things that we can (andshould) do today. We quickly learn to prioritize goals not by someoverarching strategy, but by the tick-tock of impendingdeadlines.

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Among the many gifts we offer graduates, we miss the opportunityto help them focus on that which endures for a lifetime. We givecars, but they last but a handful of years. We can give a wad ofcash, but chances are that will end up buying a car. We can give agood and meaningful book, but unless it can be read on a tinyscreen, its greatest purpose may well be to serve as a foundationto prop up some cheap furniture.

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Enterprising parents and family members are now beginning tofeel the best gift is to help reduce the graduate's loan burden.While that may be both helpful and practical, there is a greatergift, one more practical, one immensely helpful. This is the giftof the IRA.

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Technically, you can't “give” an IRA. You can, however, give thecash necessary to start an IRA. Actually, the better way to do itis to bring the paperwork to the graduate so that you can be therewhen it's signed, then take it back and deposit your cash giftright into the new IRA account. By the time one graduates, oneusually has (or will soon have) enough earned income to cover themaximum allowable annual IRA contribution (currently $5,500).

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Let's say you offer to give this gift not just on graduationday, but for the first few years after graduation. In doing so, youhelp the graduate develop a habit for retirement saving. When thatgraduate retires at age 70, those little annual IRA contributionswill have grown to more than $3 million dollars (assuming an annualreturn of 8 percent). Not too bad — and way better than somecar.

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Christopher Carosa

Chris Carosa has been writing a weekly article and monthly column for BenefitsPRO online and BenefitsPRO Magazine since 2011 and is a nationally recognized award-winning writer, researcher and speaker. He’s written seven books, including From Cradle to Retire: The Child IRA; Hey! What’s My Number? – How to Increase the Odds You Will Retire in Comfort; A Pizza The Action: Everything I Ever Learned About Business I Learned By Working in a Pizza Stand at the Erie County Fair; and the widely acclaimed 401(k) Fiduciary Solutions. Carosa is also Chief Contributing Editor of the authoritative trade journal FiduciaryNews.com and publisher of the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, a weekly community newspaper he founded in 1989. Currently serving as President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and with more than 1,000 articles published in various publications, he appears regularly in the national media. A “parallel” entrepreneur, he actively runs a handful of businesses, including a small boutique investment adviser, providing hands-on experience for his writing. A trained astrophysicist, he also holds an MBA and has been designated a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. Share your thoughts and story ideas with him through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christophercarosa/)and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ChrisCarosa).