Some people show up late at a party to make a grand entrance. Others just don’t want to be the first to arrive.

Either way, if you breeze in when the party is in full swing you can start socializing without missing a step. It sure beats showing up early and feeling awkward.

Unfortunately, what’s good for your social life isn’t necessarily good for your financial future. In fact, when it comes to saving for retirement, it’s never too early to start. After all, the sooner you begin putting money away, the more you’ll have down the line.

Obvious, right? Maybe not. According to a 2014 survey, well over one-third of Americans (36%) have no retirement savings at all. Nothing — not even a modest nest egg — for their golden years.

Given the growing gap between what people are saving for retirement and what they actually need to save, it might be time for the younger generation to get a head start on the saving game.

After all, your child someday will want a car, the latest cool gadget or a college education. And live comfortably in retirement. Don’t we all?

Enter the Roth IRA. As an investment vehicle for teenagers and college students, the Roth IRA is hard to beat. In fact, I’ve been encouraging many of my clients to set up these accounts for their children.

Your contributions to a Roth IRA come from post-tax income. Those contributions — but not earnings — can be withdrawn later tax-free. Upon retirement, all of the money in the account can be withdrawn, also tax-free.

Children of any age can open a Roth IRA as long as they’re earning income. Think summer jobs, babysitting, dog-walking or mowing the lawn. Since most teenagers and younger kids don’t earn enough to need the tax deduction of a traditional IRA, they should instead deposit whatever they make into a Roth.

That’s the beauty of Roth IRAs. Thanks to compounding, what starts as a small deposit can, over time, become a small fortune. Or, even better, a big one.

How big? Try this on for size: Your teenager, with a little nudge, could end up with $500,000 tax-free just by saving money during high school.

Doing odd jobs and babysitting, let’s say your teen banks about $1,000 a year each year of high school. You decide to encourage that behavior by matching that money, so the base amount at the end of high school is $8,000.

Millionaire security

Nobody puts in another penny. What happens? Over 60 years that money compounds at a market rate of return. In a decade the investment turns into $16,000, then $32,000 and so on, doubling every 10 years.

By age 78 that “little” Roth account has $518,534, all tax-free. That’s financial security on autopilot.

But the real gain is the money lesson it teaches your child. A lifetime habit of saving and investing begins early, when time is on your side.

Yes, growth potential with Roth IRAs is impressive, and it doesn’t take much money or effort to make it happen. Get the grandparents, aunts and uncles involved in matching dollar for dollar. Stay on track with your own matching contributions.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to leave something to your children. You just have to be one of the first at the party.

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