UNITED STATES—This weekend I was forced to have a tough conversation with myself. I’m in my 30s and it came to a realization that I’m not preparing for the future. I mean my parents are near the verge of retirement and I have members in my family who have reached retirement age, and it lead me to question if I’m prepared for retirement. I want to say yes, but I’m not certain.

I mean my job doesn’t offer a 401k or IRA plan, I’ve been tapping into my savings more than I prefer to do, and the banks where I have my checking account and savings account offer very little to no interest on my money. So I seriously have to think of making some major changes in my life. Years ago, when I first started working I had a job that offered a 401k plan, but it was only for those who were full-time employees, at the time I was part-time, but how often do you have an employer willing to match what you put in.

A lot of companies don’t do that anymore so for many Americans, you now have to develop your own plan of action. I need to cut back on spending, I need to knock down expenses or things that I really DO NOT NEED, and simply put I need to save more and find another bank. The last one I’ve been considering for quite some time; I plan to keep my current bank, but I’m going to start placing money specifically for retirement and savings in another bank account; one that happens to give a bit more when it comes to interest and my money. I feel banks today just don’t really care about the customers; they want your money, but they are NOT willing to give you anything in return. If anything, it all boils down to one thing: money!

Banks want your money, companies want your money, and the consumer seems to always get the short-end of the stick. The customer service we receive from banks including financial companies always seem to angle their advantage versus what is best for the consumer. I mean if you’re just thinking short-term, it’s never a bad idea to start right now. Consider the possibility that you get paid every week that is a total of 52 weeks in a year that you receive a check. If you were to only put away $20 each check, you have $1040 at the end of the year. If you do it for 5 years you have $5200. Do it for 10 years and you have $10,400!

It might seem like a little in the beginning, but it adds up people that is the key. For those who receive a paycheck every other week, you can double up the amount to let’s say $40 each pay period. So after 26 weeks you have the exact same amount. Start with an amount that is feasible for you and try to keep it consistent no matter what. When it comes to spending, you have to consider the possibility of only purchasing what you need and forgetting about everything else.

The biggest problem most Americans encounter is that need to buy, when in actuality they don’t need anything at all. Ok, it’s great to stumble upon a sale, but that does not mean you have to purchase everything that is on sale. You only need to purchase the items that are actually needed. This is NOT to say don’t treat yourself because you have to. There is no point in working like a dog, if you can’t reward yourself here and there for your efforts.

I’m a large advocate for a 401k or IRA plan. You need to have money placed into some account where you are able to save funds, and you are penalized for touching those funds if you do. Why? It teaches one the importance of sacrifice and discipline when it comes to money. The more you are able to save; regardless of the period of time the better it is in the long run. When it comes to retirement one cannot wait till the last minute to start to make moves or plans. The earlier that you start the better it is in the long run.

Written By Kelsey Thomas