“Better late than never” is an oft-used saying, and it may have some relevance in some pursuits. Planning for retirement isn’t one of those situations.

In fact, delaying saving for retirement can have dire consequences for investors. Simple math dictates that saving retirement is very much a “better earlier than late” proposition. For example, a worker that starts contributing $6,000 to an individual retirement account (IRA) at age 28 and continues doing so through age 65 will have $890,000 in retirement savings, assuming 6% annual portfolio growth.

For the investor that starts saving at age 35, that figure drops to $590,000. Investors who really put off saving for retirement and don’t start until age 50 wind up with $189,000.

“If you start saving in your 20s, contributing 10%–15% of your paycheck including a savings match—if any—from an employer will likely allow you to meet your retirement savings goal. With every decade you delay, however, you’ll need to save a greater percentage of your paycheck,” according to Charles Schwab research.

Today, younger investors have plenty of incentives to start retirement planning early, even if they don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans. With bond yields low and dividend growth soaring, younger investors have the luxury of time on their side, meaning they can take on more equity risk, capitalizing on payout growth as well as potential vibrancy in growth stocks.

Those are advantages of starting early on retirement savings. Young retirement savers can endure market swings and drawdowns. Conversely, those arriving late to the retirement savings party are likely to take on more risk than is appropriate for investors in their age bracket. Additionally, the latecomers have little margin for error because one bear market could be ruinous for their portfolios or force them to work longer than they would like to.

On that note, workers should take advantage of employer-sponsored plans and save more on the side if they can.

“For 2021, the max 401(k) contribution for employees under age 50 is $19,500. Employees age 50 or over can make an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500. Be sure to take advantage of any match your company offers,” adds Schwab. “Invest in your future sooner rather than later. If you’re starting later in life, don’t get discouraged—other options could help you reach your financial goals. All it takes is discipline and perseverance.”

For more news, information, and strategy, visit the Retirement Income Channel.