Before you can save for retirement you will need to know how and where your seed money will be coming from. Once you have found the money source you will need to have it keep up with inflation. Inflation is something you can not plan for but can anticipate. The United States has experienced inflation as high as 13 %% 2B and as low as 1.3%. What is important for you to know is where to put your seed money so that you can get the best return for your situation.
Start savings now for retirement if not yesterday regardless of your age. Do not wait. Time is critical. If funds are not available, start off small. Even a small amount can make a big difference given sufficient time, and the correct investment. Where possible use automatic deductions from your payroll or checking account into investment vehicles. Just like spending make investments regularly. Do not dip into retirement savings. Increase savings at a minimum annually if not semi annually or every pay raise if more frequently.
There are many vehicles of investment to choose from. To mention a few, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, savings account, money markets, treasury bills, certificate of deposits, IRAs, and employer sponsored retirement plans. The best not necessarily the greatest return is the employer sponsored retirement plans. Some employee plans will match your contribution to a certain point. The money put into these plans can also be pre tax dollars meaning that an elected amount of money is taken from your pay check before taxes are taken out and the remaining amount of your pay check is than taxed. This does two things for you. It puts you in a lower tax bracket so you pay lower taxes. The bad part of it is that taxes will be deducted on the amount you take out of your retirement account in later years.
For short term goals you should put your money into bank savings, certificates of deposits, or money market accounts. These are considered cash savings because they can easily turn back into cash. For long term goals, such as retirement, look towards stocks, bonds, mutual funds and IRAs. Long term investments have greater risks and take time to turn around to regain value if they lost any. These investments are not insured therefore lost if something should go wrong.
Why take any risk at all? Why not invest in insured and guaranteed sources? In general the greater the risk the greater possibility of higher returns. In some cases you can out perform inflation which by the way should be one of your goals.
In summary: It is important to start saving now for retirement regardless of what age you are (if not already retired). The younger you are the greater risk you can take in investments. The higher the risk the more potential there is for a greater return then exceeding inflation. Your goal should be to have a higher return on investments than inflation can erode. Your savings strategy for short term goals will be different than long term goals.