Millions of workers open retirement accounts, then ignore or forget about them, leaving thousands of dollars unattended. Are you one of them?
Raquel Charles was in her mid-20s when she signed up — begrudgingly — for her first retirement account. Wading through paperwork to start her job at the Administration for Children’s Services in New York City, she would have skipped over the retirement option if not for an older colleague’s intervention.
“She saw that I was young and didn’t know what I was doing,” Ms. Charles recalled. “She told me, ‘Just put away something, even if it’s the bare minimum.’” Ms. Charles decided to contribute 1 percent of her salary.
For the next decade, retirement was the last thing on Ms. Charles’s mind as she focused on her career and family. “I saw a few dollars coming out of my paychecks, but I never thought about it,” she said. It finally dawned on her to check the account when her mother retired last year. “I had to set a new password, because I don’t think I ever created one in the first place,” she said. “When I finally opened it, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m in trouble. I have barely any money in here.’”
Now 37, Ms. Charles has increased her retirement contributions and joined a women’s personal finance group on Facebook to learn more about financial planning. “I’m annoyed that I wasted 10 years when I could have saved a lot more,” she said. “When I was younger, I had fewer financial responsibilities and more flexibility. Now, I have two children and a mortgage.”