Trying to juggle work and family at a young age can be challenging. Often, our schools don’t prepare students to deal with the realities of finances once you are out on your own. I’m glad to see she is thinking about retirement and wants to contribute – that is the best place to start.
I believe that regular contributions to a 401(k) plan over a long period of time, along with an annual asset allocation review will allow even a modestly paid person to retire in comfort. Not extravagance, but comfort. Regular contributions and low fees are the greatest predictors of long-term investing success.
Allocating 401(k) funds can be challenging, particularly for the young who are jaded with recent market downturns and who don’t have the benefit of watching market cycles over time. Most 401(k) plans have online resources, so she should start there. Many plans offer one-on-one consultations, so definitely take advantage of that if available. She could discuss an allocation which would help her gain some experience with how the markets work, while helping to limit the risk of over-exposure in stocks. She should try to balance the fear with the fact that time is on her side.