Today we rushed to the tornado sirens to blare them across the land after reading this damning bit of statistics. If you’re young, there’s a greater than 1/3 chance that you’re spending more on coffee than retirement??? EMERGENCY!!

Whats the big deal?

Why is this such a big deal? After all, some of you may think, you have plenty of time to save for retirement. And that’s the big deal: time! With so many years ahead, you have time on your side, and it’s your most powerful ally by a long shot. But time won’t help you one bit if you don’t call it regularly or at least send it a few texts; hell just get time to subscribe to your snaps, i.e. automate your contributions, and you’ll be good to go! If you don’t take action today, time can’t do shit for you tomorrow.

However, if you take a few minutes and a small handful of $1’s right now, you can plant a seed for time to tend to tomorrow and the next day and every night you’re sleeping forever and ever. It’s a simple concept: when you need it, your oldest money will be your biggest money. That $500 you socked away from a summer job freshman year is going to be yuuuge! Much larger than the $500 you grabbed from the ATM after your last paycheck ever.

Look, retirement savings isn’t just for retirement. It’s your road to wealth. Without following the roadmap, you’ll be fighting a losing battle to get ahead of your finances. You start with the tax-advantaged accounts and fill them up to a logical level. Your employer and the government reward you lavishly for taking these first steps. We’re talking free money in the form of tax breaks and matching contributions.

The numbers:

For a single person making $45,000 and not dedicating a cent toward retirement contributions, consider this: contribute 6% to your 401(k). That’s $2,700. And in all likelihood, your employer will pitch in at least 3% of your salary as an incentive: $1,350 in free money. A $45,000 salary will put your AGI bracket at 15% so that $2,700 that you put back means you save an additional $405 in federal taxes and ~$160 at the state level. All told, you keep $7.40 per day, and you instantly get $5.25 per day extra as a reward. Why wouldn’t you do this??

We can only think of one legitimate reason why you wouldn’t take advantage of this amazing opportunity: your employer doesn’t have a 401(k) or equivalent savings vehicle. If that’s the case, you need to focus 100% of your personal time and efforts into developing a skill and finding a job that will allow you to save. This is a bare-bones, absolute minimum financial standard that you should be meeting early in your career. The sooner the better.

Let’s assume you pocket the tax breaks ($405 from our example) – hey, spend them on coffee – while your investments compound at historical S&P500 rates of 7% after inflation. Check out this chart from the above example:

Year 1: $4,050

Year 10: $55,956

Year 20: $166,032

Year 30: $382,566

The only way that you’ll be able to compound money for 30 years is if you start doing it before you’re 35. The magic of compounding is that the longer the period, the crazier the numbers get. Imagine if you start doing this before 25 and therefore have 40 years to compound before traditional retirement age. That $382k? It becomes an eye-popping $808,522. A full, comfy retirement, from $7.40 per day. And along the way, you got to spend $22,600 on caramel macchiatos.

The only way that you can accomplish these gaudy figures is to start early. Start NOW!