Preparing for a comfortable retirement is like saving a helpless planet from a killer asteroid: Don't wait until the last minute. (Photo: Shutterstock)

You’ve seen this picture dozens of times. The frantic crew pushes the ship to its structural limits to prevent a killer asteroid from destroying a planet that’s home to billions of lives.

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The tension builds as the captain must decide whether to use all available power to push the asteroid away from the planet’s path – and risk sending a limp ship into gravitational spiral plummeting to the surface of the planet it wishes to save – or keep enough power in reserve to possibly save the ship and risk failing to budge the asteroid enough to alter its trajectory.

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I’ve got news for you folks. This is all Hollywood malarkey.

You don’t have to be a trained astrophysicist to know the situation would never need to happen. Computers can plot the paths of asteroids years in advance.

Why is this important? Because the farther away the asteroid is from the threatened planet, the less “push” it needs to change its course.

It’s only when you wait until the final minutes – when the asteroid is barreling towards the planet’s outer atmosphere – that you need inordinate amounts of energy to divert its track.

Preparing for a comfortable retirement is like saving a helpless planet from a killer asteroid.

The sooner you start addressing the problem, the easier it is to address. There would be no “retirement crisis” if we started saving for retirement as children. (see “Guidelines for Minor Children: How to Avoid a Personal Retirement Crisis,”, September 26, 2017). A quick look at the numbers bear this out.

The book From Cradle to Retirement speaks of establishing an IRA from the moment a baby is born until that baby reaches 19. By saving only $1,000 a year in a Child IRA throughout that time period, that baby will have $2.25 million dollars in that IRA at the retirement age of 70.


If we tried to duplicate this same result (i.e., $2.25 million dollars at age 70) and saved the maximum allowable amount each year (currently $5,500), the total savings requirement increases exponentially the longer we wait to start.

For example, if we started a Child IRA at age 16, the total savings requirement to reach $2.25 million at age 70 would be $46,592.

If we waited until 18, it would be $58,434 and if we waited until age 22 it would be $122,679.

If we waited until age 30, we’d have to contribute a total of $239,000 through age 70, and we still wouldn’t get to $2.25 million until age 72.

As a practical matter, if you’re reading this and you’re under 18, you need to do two things and do them quickly.

The first is to get a job that pays you money. The younger you are, the more help you’ll need from your parents on this. But if we learned anything from the White House lawn mower boy, even a ten-year-old can be an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter what age. It doesn’t matter how you do it (cutting grass, shoveling snow, babysitting, etc…) earning income has to be the priority. Without earned income, you can’t start a Child IRA.

Once you have that earned income, you drag your parent or guardian down to the nearest financial services office (e.g., a bank, a broker, a mutual fund) and get them to set up a “Custodial” or “Minor Child” or “Guardian” IRA (the names may vary depending on which firm you use). 

Be careful, though. While most big-name companies offer them, not all financial services firms offer these types of IRAs.

If you happen upon one that doesn’t, don’t give up, just move on to the next firm. Once that IRA is opened, just keep working and saving. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll earn enough money to save the maximum allowable amount. If you smart enough, you’ll actually save the maximum allowable amount.

Compounding is a truly amazing phenomenon. It makes up for lack of “power” (money, in this case) as long as we have time on our side. In other words, if we get to the killer asteroid early enough, we don’t need to save that much money to retire in comfort on the planet we just saved.