This editorial was originally published on May 2, 2012. It is being re-run as Steve is at SQL Bits.
I'm halfway through my career, having spent about 20 years since college working in technology with another twenty to go. The rest of the community is probably spread out around me, some older, some younger. It doesn't matter what part of your life you are in, there are a few things about work that I think always apply. The first is that we work to live, and don't live to work. The second is I like to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
It's all too common for people in this business to overwork themselves, work very long hours, and neglect the rest of their life. I have rarely seen someone that is retired or late in life complain that they didn't work enough over their lifetime, and I'd caution you to keep that in mind as you go through life. There will always be more work, more things to do, and more requests from clients and customers. Keep a balance in your life, and remember to enjoy it along the way.
The second part of my advice can apply in many parts of our career, but it ought to apply to our finances and our retirement. Unfortunately, I've seen a few articles like this one that notes many people have not funded their retirements well. We all have expenses, and it's easy to delay the investments in our life until later, but that is a bad idea. Whether it's your IRA/401K or your health, you'd be better off sacrificing a little today for a little more security later.
In the US, many employers match contributions and you ought to take advantage of that. There are all sorts of options for retirement, like ROTH IRAs, that it seems many people aren't aware of. I also meet many people that don't realize they can borrow against their 401K as well, taking a loan whose interest goes back to your own account. There are few excuses to not plan for the future. Enjoy today, but plan to live a long time and to enjoy your retirement.
How much money you might need depends on your lifestyle, and that's something you should spend time thinking about and talking with your family about. Many of us may not be able to retire at 65, or count on social security, but I'd hate to have to work longer than I want to because I cannot afford to retire.