On that magical day when you finally retire, you’ll find that your living expenses won’t magically disappear. Your housing, healthcare, food, transportation and other expenses will all still be the same—whether you have the money to pay for them or not. That means you’ll need to save a lot for retirement, and you’ll need to start early. How much will you need? It’s impossible to know, so your best bet is to save as much as you can to make sure that you’ll be financially comfortable when you retire.
Budgeting and saving are a lot of work, but here are 6 tips to help you save for retirement.
1. Take full advantage of 401(k) matching. If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that matches your 401(k) contributions, make sure you contribute up to the amount that your company matches. For example, if you make $50,000/year and your company offers to match up to 3% of your salary, that’s $1,500 that they’re willing to give you. But you’ll need to contribute $1,500 yourself in order to get it. It’s free money that can double your annual retirement savings!
2. Open an IRA and automate your deposits. Interest rates on simple savings accounts are quite low right now, but opening a basic IRA savings account and setting up payroll deductions or automatic monthly transfers into it will make it easy to start saving. As your balance grows, you can look into other options like IRA Certificates and investments that can provide you with higher yields.
3. Grab extra cash. Resist the temptation to spend extra cash from bonuses, tax refunds, inheritance and other infrequent sources. Make it a rule to always put at least 30% of “found” money into your retirement savings. You can do the same with raises—every time you get a raise, increase your 401(k) or other retirement contribution.
4. Hitchhike onto an existing discipline. If you’re used to making a monthly car payment, use that discipline to add to your retirement. Just hold onto your car for a few more months after you pay off the loan, and put that monthly payment into your retirement savings. While a shiny new car might make you happy today, think about the well-being of future you.
5. Kick extra money into your mortgage. If you’re able to pay off your mortgage before you retire, you’ll eliminate your biggest living expense. The same way that compound interest works in your favor for saving over time, it works against you for long-term loans like mortgages. Just by adding an extra $100 each month as a principal payment to your mortgage, you’ll save thousands of dollars in interest and pay off a 30-year mortgage in 24 years!
6. Retire later. If you arrive at age 65 with less savings than you’ll need to live comfortably, you might want to hold off retiring until age 70. The longer you wait to collect Social Security, the more you’ll receive in your monthly payments. It can mean hundreds of dollars more each month, and is worth delaying your retirement. You can also retire from your full-time job and work part-time until age 70—just don’t file for Social Security until you can get your full benefit.
If you assume that you’ll live a long, healthy life, then assume that you’ll also need significant retirement savings and take steps today to increase them!