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STAFF PHOTO/BROOKE WILLIAMS George Dillman, investor education coordinator with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, presents at the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

It’s never too early to start saving for retirement. In fact, the earlier, the better.

This was one of the main takeaways at the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce’s April Business Series Luncheon, which featured a presentation from George Dillman, investor education coordinator with the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities.

On Wednesday (April 10) afternoon, Dillman walked chamber members through the “STaRT” program, or Start Today and Retire Tomorrow.

Dillman said while learning about this topic, he realized that you don’t need to be a financial expert to save and invest for your short term and long term goals.

His interest in the subject began as a teenager when he visited Dorney Park and noticed an elderly man working there. The look on the man’s face made it apparent that he was working there out of necessity, not desire, and Dillman instantly knew he didn’t want that to be his future.

“I’m not going to be 75 or 80 years old working a job I have to work because I need the money,” he said. “Now do I want to be 75 or 80 years old working a job where I want to work because I want to continue working? Absolutely. Big difference.”

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, 45 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement, said Dillman, and it’s important to remind late starters that it’s never too late to start.

One of the goals of Dillman’s presentation was to convince those without a plan to pay down debt, build a healthy emergency fund and invest in long term goals to develop one.

For those who already have a plan, he encouraged them to continuously review it and stick to it, as curveballs can throw plans off track.

Being wary of fraud and scams to protect your plan is also crucial, Dillman said.

He reminded those investing young that not a lot is needed to start saving and investing, and even $20 per paycheck is a good way to begin.

A little bit of reading and research can get you where you need to go, Dillman said, and investing sooner rather than later is always better, especially in terms of compound interest.

Dillman showed pictures of elderly people doing enjoyable hobbies and relaxing, and said one’s retirement can look this way with a plan.

Few employers offer traditional pensions or retirement plans, so it’s one’s responsibility to figure out how much they need to retire and plan for it.

“And remember, a dollar today won’t be worth a dollar tomorrow with inflation,” he said.

Quoting Albert Einstein, Dillman said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it. He who doesn’t pays it.”

Using an example with 10 percent interest, in 40 years, one can save $40,320 with no compounding or $469,946 with compounding by saving $84 per month.

The STaRT program looks at three phases: early career, mid-career and late career.

While it may seem hard to believe, Dillman said, the first phase of retirement planning begins when you enter the workforce on a permanent or full-time basis.

It may not be your primary concern, but should be a consideration. If your employer does not have a retirement plan, you should look into others.

People in this stage could consider where they want to be when they retire, as everyone’s needs differ, and ask themselves questions such as: What position do I want to be in financially? Does the job I have provide enough income and benefits? Do I understand basic investment principles that will help me make good decisions?

In this phase, one should create a plan that is “S.M.A.R.T,” or specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic with a time component, consider receiving help from a financial professional and follow money-wise practices.

In the mid-career phase, a plan should be in place, and fewer risks should be taken with investments to ensure retirement goals are met.

“When we’re younger, we can afford to ride out those ups and downs,” Dillman said. “We can go riskier with our investments, maybe investing more in stocks, which are riskier than going with bonds or money market funds.”

People in this phase should regularly review their investment strategy to stay on track.

If you find yourself with fewer savings than anticipated, possibly due to debt or a family emergency, working longer or part-time is an option.

“Even well thought-out plans can be derailed,” Dillman said.

Using additional income from raises or elimination of debt can be added to retirement assets at this point, he explained. For example, if a couple pays off their mortgage, the amount set aside for the mortgage each month could be put into their retirement account instead.

In the final late career phase, which Dillman said should be “peak earning years,” people are within 10 years of retirement.

People in this phase should be hypervigilant about making sound financial decisions and wary of scammers and identity thieves, who often target retired folks.

“They’ll go back after the same person time after time until they’re wiped out,” he said.

In this phase, assess your savings and investments to ensure you’re prepared for retirement.

Dillman also noted that willingly working in retirement can be enjoyable and good for the body and mind in addition to bringing in extra cash on top of retirement funds.

“Don’t put off until tomorrow because tomorrow may never come,” he concluded.

For additional information and tips for retirement, visit dobs.pa.gov and wi65.org (“When I’m 65”).