The average U.S. college kid graduates from school with about $25,000 in student loan debt, according to the latest figures from the Institute for College Access & Success. Factor in credit-card debt and a weak job market and lots of Millennials find themselves so far in the red they can't even think about retirement savings. "College loans are a big topic of discussion for my generation," Cruze says. "You hear about people in their 30s and 40s who are still paying off their student loans." She recommends paying off all debts -- including college loans -- before even starting to save for retirement. Ideally, you'll pay off all of you debts within a year or two of graduating college, Cruze says. "It takes a lot of sacrifices -- you can't buy clothes and you can't go out to eat -- but you can do it," she says. Save early and often
Regli admits few Millennials can afford to make the maximum allowable annual contributions to retirement accounts -- $17,000 for 401(k)s and $5,000 for IRAs if you're under 50. Still, she encourages young adults to save as much as possible, as the compounding of investment returns means those who start early generally wind up with the biggest nest eggs. "Don't be discouraged if you can only save $10 or 1% of your compensation
One thing you should definitely try to do is put enough money into your 401(k) each year to get the maximum available employer match, Regli says. "It's like getting free money," she says. Many businesses match every dollar an employee contributes to a 401(k) with around 50 cents of company money, up to a certain maximum. If you can't set aside enough money to collect the maximum match, Regli suggests getting as much as you can. "Even if you just get some of the match, it's worth it in the long run." she says.