Everyone has that friend. The one who goes to bed at 9:00 p.m. to get to the gym in the morning, the one who packs her lunch every day, the one who always organizes every group outing or trip.

Confession time: I’m that girl. And while I can sometimes seem too “boring” or “responsible” or “safe,” I’m pretty confident that there’s one area where being responsible and proactive is smart: my retirement.

That’s right—I’m 23 years old, a year and a half out of college, and I’m saving for retirement. I started saving in January, and I feel great about my decision.

Start Saving Now

Time is Money

When it comes to saving for retirement, time is of the essence. And that’s because of the magic that is compound interest. It’s rumored that Albert Einstein once said that compound interest is “the most powerful force in the universe.”

So, what is it? Compound interest is when you begin to earn interest on your interest. Let’s say you start saving $1,200 a year towards your retirement. If interest is paid five percent annually, you’ll receive $60 in interest in the first year. If you leave that $60 in your retirement account, it’ll start earning interest, too. The next year your $1,260 balance will earn $63 in interest.

It seems small initially, but over time it adds up to a ton of money. If you saved $1,200 a year—just $100 a month—starting at age 23 until you’re 65, you would have over $170,000 in the bank.

Meanwhile, if you start saving the same amount when you’re 30, you’ll have $120,000. Not bad, but that’s a $50,000 penalty you’re paying… all because you waited to save! If you wait until you’re 35, you’ll have less than $90,000 by the age of 65. When you compare the numbers, it just doesn’t make sense to wait until you’re in your 30s to start saving. This LearnVest article explains compound interest in depth.

Financial Security = Empowerment

As Millennial women, we have no shortage of inspiring women and resources around us to help us succeed. Companies like Levo League didn’t exist when my mom was my age, and not just because the internet wasn’t around yet! We’ve created an amazing emotional and professional support system for ourselves, and I believe that creating a strong financial support system is the final piece of the puzzle.

For me, saving for retirement means that I’ll never have to worry about relying on my children, my spouse, or the government for money. I believe that being 100 percent financially independent is one of the most satisfying accomplishments a person can achieve. By saving today, I’m paying myself in the future—not just in money, but in peace of mind.

Where to Start?

If you’re anything like me, your first thoughts about retirement might be fear and confusion. I get it! But I have three easy steps to take control of your future and start saving today:

1. Start Small: If you barely have a handle on your day-to-day budget, or are spending $200 a month at Starbucks, you should probably square away your current finances before you start worrying about your future. Create a budget and include retirement savings. Even $50 a month can grow into quite the nest egg.

2. Educate Yourself: I read two books—Smart Women Finish Rich and You Have More Than You Think—that really clarified a lot about saving for retirement. Of course, if books aren’t your thing, you can always research on the internet or even take a free online course on financial planning.

3. Sign Up: With all your newfound knowledge, schedule some time with your company’s HR department to figure out what forms you need to fill out and with whom to open your retirement account. You can even have your retirement contribution automatically withdrawn from your paycheck every month, so you’ll never have to worry about forgetting a contribution. (Added bonus: Contributing to your retirement brings down your taxable income!)

What are you doing to save for the future? Tell us in the comments!

Ask Sallie Krawcheck, Past President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a question about personal finance!

Photo courtesy of Vaja