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BLOG: Lockdown lessons for teenagers to save for a happy retirement

Written by: Romi Savova
Getting teenagers to think about saving for their old age is a mammoth task at the best of times, and with the stresses of the coronavirus health crisis it may now seem impossible. But as the effects of lockdown are felt in the economy and people’s livelihoods, now is actually a really good opportunity to discuss the value of money.

Ease your teenagers into the world of finances gently, by getting them to complete the Bank Statement Challenge. Devised by Sian Bentley, a teacher from Leicester, all you need is a bank statement from a few months ago and one from during the lockdown period. Go through the statements with your kids and compare your spending then and now.

This is a simple way to talk about the family’s finances, and in real-terms, can show the effect coronavirus is having on your budget, especially if, like many families right now, your household income has taken a hit. With a concrete example of the value of money in their minds, you can introduce other concepts, like the power of investing to grow their savings.

Stock markets have been put in turmoil by coronavirus, but savvy investors are picking up bargains. Some families may have spare cash to do just that. The Centre for Economics and Business Research has found average households are spending 30% less than pre-lockdown.

Unable to go out and spend as freely as they may have done previously, young adults may also have healthier wallets. Point out to them that as well as having a rainy day fund, investing can make their money grow, and discuss the positive impact time can have on investing.

Savers who drip-feed money into buying investments regularly weather volatile stock markets better. They avoid the trap of “timing the market” with sporadic splurges, which inevitably lead to selling low and buying high, costing them returns. Over time regular investing smooths out short-term losses with longer-term gains.

The longer you’re invested the better this works. Teach your kids about it now and when they hit 18, generally the minimum age for them to invest independently, they’ll understand being a young investor is a huge advantage, one they should grab if they can. Albert Einstein didn’t call compound interest the eighth wonder of the world without good reason, and the sooner your children open a savings account and get into the habit of saving, the better.

Now you’ve laid the groundwork – the value of money, the importance of saving, that investing makes your money grow faster and how that works best over time – you can begin talking about investing in a pension.

By the time today’s 18-year-olds retire, the earliest they’ll be able to access their pension will likely have risen from the current 55 to at least 57 (as planned from 2028). Life expectancy is 79 for men and 83 for women; in a retirement of maybe 30 years or more, so they’ll need a pot big enough to last.

An absolute no brainer to get young adults on the path to a comfortable retirement is ensuring they contribute as much as possible to their workplace pension. Explain how Auto Enrolment works and that when they pay in, their employer does too; and therefore why opting out is like throwing away free money.

Older children already in work and contributing to a pension may, for the first time, have seen its value fall dramatically in recent weeks. A big drop in your balance can be scary, but for early investors it is also a great learning opportunity. Now is the perfect time to homeschool your children about the stock market, and its inherently volatile nature, cautioning that they should only place money in it on the assumption that it’s for the long-term.

A pension is a great example – they won’t be able to touch the money for 40 years, and what may seem like a big dip now will only be a tiny blip in the future, when they’ve amassed enough savings to enjoy a happy retirement.

Romi Savova is CEO of online pension provider, PensionBee

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