Most working adults know that saving for retirement should be a top priority. But we only have a limited amount of time between the day we get our first paycheck and the day we stop earning a wage, and all-too-often that time can get away from us.
Whether you got a late start or experienced a financial setback, it’s not uncommon to find that you are not on track to hit your retirement goals. While this can be a scary fact to face, it’s never too late to pick up the speed on growing your nest egg.
Here are eight ways to boost your retirement savings, whatever your age.
1. Start Today
There’s no denying that starting to save earlier is best, but you can’t go back and change the past; you can only focus on what’s possible right now. The sooner you can start saving and investing, the more opportunity you have to let earnings and compound interest work in your favor.
Even small amounts can make a big difference in the long run, so look carefully at what you can afford to set aside and push the envelope whenever possible. Most importantly, if your goal is to boost your retirement savings, the best decision you can make is not to wait any longer.
2. Budget Wisely
Take a close look at your budget and rein in your spending wherever you can. Nobody wants to pinch pennies, but once you break the habit of overspending, you may be surprised by how little you miss the things you’ve cut back. Look for ways to lower your bills, such as finding less costly car insurance or nixing unused subscriptions. Start by bringing your lunch to work a few days a week, making your coffee at home, and limiting your shopping sprees.
Small amounts add up more quickly than you would think. That twelve-dollar turkey sandwich habit can cost thousands of dollars every year. Brown-bagging your lunch a few days a week for a decade could be the difference between seeing the world in your golden years or staying put.
3. Stash Extra Cash
Whenever you come into some extra cash, be sure to put it to work for you. Whether it’s a bonus at work, pay raise, inheritance, gift, or winnings of some kind, you can get paid even more if you stash it in your retirement account and take advantage of compounding interest. You can treat yourself to celebrate, but put a limit on your splurges and commit to setting a significant portion aside for later.
A good rule of thumb is to save at least half of every extra dollar you get. For example, as you receive pay raises over the years, that doesn’t mean you should allow your living costs to keep up with your income. Instead, stick some of it in savings and increase your retirement plan contribution percentage as your pay rate goes up.
4. Automate Your Savings
Putting your savings on autopilot is one of the best ways to ensure you do it consistently. Follow the “pay yourself first” principle and have a set amount pulled from your paycheck before you have a chance to spend it or even see it. Think of your retirement savings payment as no different from any other bill. Don’t even give yourself a chance to question it. If the mortgage has to be paid, so does your retirement fund.
Automating the process of contributing to your retirement accounts makes it easier, allowing you to boost your savings without even needing to think about it.
5. Use Your Employer Benefits
Retirement savings accounts were developed for you to use for your benefit. If you are fortunate enough to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan as a benefit, take advantage of it. If there is a 401(k) plan available at your workplace and you are eligible to participate, participate! Keep in mind that your contributions are pre-tax money, so maxing out your percentage will not lower your take-home pay as much as you might think. You can use a 401(k) contribution calculator to see how surprisingly little boosting your savings will hit your budget.
Even better, if your employer offers to match your 401(k) contributions, be sure to contribute enough to take full advantage of the match, at a minimum. Your employer’s contribution is essentially free money that you don’t want to leave on the table.
6. Fund Individual Retirement Accounts
If you rely entirely on an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you’re not alone, but you miss opportunities to boost their savings with personal retirement accounts. If you want to add to your nest egg more quickly, you may want to consider opening an individual retirement account (IRA). Depending on your income and other circumstances, a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA could be a good option for you to accelerate your savings.
7. Play Catch Up
If you are starting late, you certainly need to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to save aggressively; time is of the essence. But it’s important to remember that retirement accounts set limits on the amounts you can contribute. Because so many people find themselves behind, the IRS allows an opportunity to play catch up. If this is where you are now, know that you have options.
Once you’ve reached 50, you become eligible to contribute more than the normal limits. Catch-up contributions to your IRA or 401(k) can play a significant role in your retirement savings during a season when your earnings are likely at a peak.
8. Delay Social Security
Finally, when the time to retire grows near, a smart way to boost your savings is to delay collecting your Social Security payments. Every year you can delay receiving the Social Security you’ve earned, you can not only put away more money but also increase the actual amount you receive monthly from the Social Security Administration in the future. The increased amount adds up quickly, so pushing your retirement back can make a big difference in your monthly income.
The Bottom Line
If you want to ease your worries about retirement, the best thing you can do is begin boosting your retirement savings now. Set a goal now and start working toward it incrementally and diligently. The first step is to know how much you will need, and then every financial decision you make after that should be focused on taking you another step closer to your goal. Setting benchmarks along the path to retirement will help you track your progress, appreciate how far you’ve come, and feel confident that you are doing everything you can to set yourself up for confidence.
Robert "Fenn" Giles, Jr., MBA, CIMA® is a founding partner of Wealth Advisors of Tampa Bay (WATB) and acts as the firm’s President and Chief Investment Officer. WATB is an independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) located in Tampa, Florida. Learn more about them at wealthadvtb.com.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax deductible in the contribution year, with current income tax due at withdrawal. Withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax in addition to current income tax.
A Roth IRA offers tax deferral on any earnings in the account. Qualified withdrawals of earnings from the account are tax-free. Withdrawals of earnings prior to age 59 ½ or prior to the account being opened for 5 years, whichever is later, may result in a 10% IRS penalty tax. Limitations and restrictions may apply.
This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.