Retirement is not on the radar for most 20-somethings that Toronto-based financial advisor Matthew Lekushoff has met.

Between getting into their careers, moving into their own place and paying down student debt, Lekushoff, who works with Raymond James Financial, says retirement savings probably hovers low on the list of millennials’ financial priorities.

And that’s problematic.

“For their grandparents’ generation, they had defined benefit plans, and they knew they would be taken care of in retirement,” Lekushoff told “And this generation, not as much.”

Sophia Bera, founder of Texas-based financial planning firm Gen Y Planning, works primarily with millennials. She says many young professionals have an “entrepreneurial mindset” when it comes to their retirement savings.

“We know our company is not going to necessarily take care of us (in retirement),” the 31-year-old said. “We don’t know how much social security will be there when we retire, so we’re not really counting on it.”

She continued: “We need to take care of ourselves”

But that message may not be resonating with young Canadians.

According to a recent TD survey, only 52 per cent of Canadians under the age of 34 are making contributions to retirement savings. In another survey done for TD Bank, nearly one-third of young Canadians admitted they are “not at all knowledgeable” about retirement savings plans.

“It’s a concept that’s way out in the distance,” said Linda MacKay, senior vice president of personal savings and investing with TD Canada Trust. “While a lot of people recognize it’s important to save for retirement, it’s how you take that first step that can be a bit daunting for people.”

Put your savings on auto-pilot

MacKay recommends creating a “coffee time budget”, something she says could be done in the same time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee.

“Figure out what money is coming in, what money is coming out, and that would involve paying down your student loan and figuring out what amount you can pay yourself,” she said.

Along with TD, Canada’s four other big banks all offer budget calculators on their websites:

MacKay said “paying yourself” is an important habit to develop. It involves putting aside some money– either for retirement, for a future big purchase, or for an emergency fund– which she said should amount to at least two months-worth of expenses.

Automating the process, MacKay said, will guarantee that those savings start growing sooner rather than later.

“Get the amount to (automatically) come out of your bank account when your pay cheque comes in,” she said.

Lekushoffagrees with making automatic contributions.

“Don’t think to yourself, ‘Oh I’ll have $1,000 at the end of the year that I’ll put into savings,” he said. “That rarely works.”

How much should millennials be saving for retirement?

According to the latest figures from Statistic Canada, in 2013 the median RRSP contribution was $3,000, or approximately $250 a month.

While debt repayment, salary and living expenses factor into how much one can save, MacKay recommends that young Canadians use a personal savings calculator to pinpoint items they’d be prepared to spend less on in order to save more.

For example, MacKay said forgoing a coffee every day, and saving the $2.50 instead, will amount to $75 every 30 days.

Lekushoff said saving 15 per cent of your salary is an optimal target, but he acknowledges that could be tricky.

“Even if you start saving $100 or $200 a month, that’s better than nothing.”

Lekushoff said he’s increasingly working with clients who are in their late 50s and early 60s who are coming to terms with the prospect ofliving on $20,000 to $30,000 a year when retired.

“They’re heartbroken that their retirement is going to be a worse lifestyle than it is now,” he said.

He continued: “When you start saving, it affects you for the first month or two, but it’s almost like being on a diet. After three months you don’t even notice it.”

MacKay said the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

“No amount is too small,” she said. “The hardest part is getting started.”