While retirement probably seems a long way out, and it might be for you, it is something to be planned for and actively managed. A few generations ago, for many Americans, there was no such thing as true “retirement”, but with the advent of the social safety net via social security, retirement became a real possibility for my parents and their generation. However, with the shrinking numbers of working Americans, and increasing numbers of retirees, we can be fairly confident that social security benefits will shrink, and the full retirement age will continue to creep up. When I started working, full retirement age was 65, and it’s now 67, and very likely to increase again in your life time.
This is where company-sponsored retirement plans come in. These are called 401k's, 403b’s and 457’s and they are a good ways to save for your retirement. They are good because money can often be invested pretax (lowering your taxes today) or via a Roth contribution, where you pay taxes now, but not when the money is distributed making withdrawals “tax-free”. With a matching employer plan, it could mean the difference between a comfortable retirement, and having to significantly change your standard of living. With my first employer, for every dollar I put in the plan, my employer matched that amount 100% in their stock up to 8% of my salary and that was an amazing plan even at the time. You probably won’t find anything that good today, but getting started is the most important thing.
Because of decisions like before tax, pre tax and Roth, it is important that you take advantage of any free financial advice services that come along with the plan. (Most plans do) Once you are in a plan, the very next and important question is what you should be investing in. Stock, bond s etc. You want to learn the basics of investing for retirement so you can make your best choices!
Good luck to you!