Putting money aside for post-work years can feel daunting. How much do you save, and how do you know when to start? Feeling overwhelmed or being unsure of where to begin may be part of the reason that one in three Millennials haven’t put anything away for retirement.
A fresh year is a great time to take a renewed look at your approach to planning for retirement. If you’re just getting started, make it a New Year’s resolution to start saving in earnest for retirement. Here’s motivation to get started.
- Start now—no matter how old you are.
If possible, it’s a good idea to start saving for retirement as soon as you get your first job... If not, know that the most important thing is to start today (or as soon as you can). Although you might need to devote more funds to retirement savings the later you begin, it’s important to simply start, however old you are, and to save what you can while you can.
- Save at least enough to get your employer match, if you have it.
Your first step should be to find out if your employer offers a retirement plan and whether or not they provide a match. If so, meet with your benefits coordinator to find out how to take advantage of it to the fullest potential. Many employers will match your contribution, dollar for dollar, up to a certain percentage. Your first goal should be to contribute what you need to get the full match, and then add more to your contribution as it fits in your budget. Be sure to also check any vesting policies your company may have.
- Open your own retirement savings account.
Starting a separate retirement savings account, like an IRA, is a good option for a couple reasons. If your employer offers their own program and you’ve opted in, then contributing to a separate retirement savings account can help you speed up your saving strategy. If you don’t have an employer-sponsored program, then opening your own tax-advantaged retirement savings account gives you the ability to prepare for the future, regardless of what your employer does or doesn’t offer.
- Boost your savings, every year.
As you accumulate retirement savings, and your budget allows, don’t let your contribution levels remain the same. Increase them annually, even if it’s a small increase, based upon your financial situation. For example, if you receive a raise, put at least a portion of the extra income toward your retirement fund.
- Contribute automatically.
If you never see the money you’ll be less likely to miss it, and you’ll add to your retirement savings without thinking about it. Set up automatic deductions from your paycheck for whatever frequency and amount works with your budget.
- Put extra money to work.
Raises, gifts, bonuses, tax refunds, and any other unexpected income are another way to help build your savings for retirement.
- Put debt payment dollars to work.
If you have allocated a certain amount toward debt repayment and finish paying off credit cards or loans, use those same funds to increase your retirement savings once your debt is eliminated.
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