It may be hard to imagine while you’re still studying to become a nurse, or while working your first 12-hour shift, but there will come a day when you don’t wake up and put on scrubs. However much you enjoy your career as a nurse, all good things eventually do come to an end. And with a few notable exceptions (like Nurse Rigney), retirement eventually arrives for all of us.
But with the hectic schedules and flurry of activity that fills most nurses’ days, planning for said retirement can easily become an afterthought. Nearly 60% of nurses admit to having done no planning whatsoever for retirement, and that could mean some unpleasant surprises down the road… or even having to delay retirement indefinitely.
But preparing for retirement as a nurse doesn’t have to be complicated, and by keeping a few key points in mind and making some sound financial decisions now, you can care for your future just as well as you care for your patients today.
Tip #1: Start As Soon As You Can – The reason is simple… compound interest. More money saved now means a longer period in which it can grow. CNN Money offers a fantastic example of how this works at this link. It may sting a little to set aside money you know you won’t be seeing for several decades, but the difference between saving now and saving later could be in the hundreds of thousands.
Tip #2: Look For Free Money – There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but with many employers there is such a thing as free money for your retirement. Check with your company on their 401k employee match program—many employers will match (up to a certain amount) your retirement contributions if it’s automatically withdrawn from your paycheck. But not all hospitals and medical companies are the same, so if you move from job to job across your career, pay close attention to their retirement program details.
Tip #3: Save Automatically – Judith McNiff (CFP, Wells Fargo) suggests that nurses “set up automatic transfers of money from your checking account into your savings or retirement account. This way, you’re less likely to spend money you want to allocate to savings. Check your savings progress every month and watch your balances grow.” She also suggests setting a savings goal of 5% of your income when you’re first starting out as a nurse, then gradually increasing that amount to 10% as your career progresses.
Tip #4: Start Small – Nurses are natural problem solvers, hard workers, and people who like to see results quickly. But trying to conquer retirement planning too quickly could lead to burnout and frustration. Steven A. Boorstein (RockCrest Financial LLC) recommends nurses who are hesitant about making financial decisions to start small. “Starting something begins to take you down the right path now. Over the course of a year or two, if you tackle the small issues, you find that you’ll start to clear up the mess and can focus on the bigger issues (e.g., student loans, retirement, major purchases, college planning for your children).”
Tip #5: Get Help Sooner, Not Later – Between juggling patients and home life, nurses have their hands full, so learning to navigate the world of finance and investment alone could quickly become overwhelming. Fortunately, there are plenty of financial advisors available to help take that burden off your shoulders… and some hospitals and medical companies even offer financial advisement in-house. “But don’t wait until you’re ready to retire to talk to a financial adviser,” warns McNiff. “That’s like saying, ‘My house is on fire — I better go get some homeowner’s insurance!’ Instead, meet with an adviser early in your career to create a long-term plan that will help you meet your retirement savings goals.”
You’re a hard worker, and there’s no reason why your money shouldn’t be working just as hard as you do. So form a few good habits now, and soon saving for retirement could feel as natural as scrubs and hand sanitizers.
For more information on beginning your career in nursing, contact Unitek College today.