Conventional financial wisdom: Save 10 percent to 15 percent of your income for retirement.
Instead: Sock away 25 percent to 30 percent to make up for the times when you can save only 5 percent or less.
Why: Admittedly, saving 10 percent to 15 percent would represent an improvement for many young people, says David H. Lamp, a CFP with BBJS Financial Advisors in Seattle. That savings habit will produce a good result if you maintain it through your working career. But you should save even more when you're starting out to compensate for financial bumps in the road later. Life events such as changing careers, getting laid off, buying a house, getting married and starting a family can cause your income to drop or make saving tough, Lamp says. So it's important to save more when you can to make up the difference.
"I'm a living example of someone who did this, and I have benefitted greatly," Lamp says. "My needs as a 21-year-old were much smaller than they are now at 38. I've always been a diligent saver, but there have been times when I wasn't able to put any money away in a given year, and I'm thankful I put away a lot early on."