You might be asking yourself, "How much should I save for retirement?" or "What is the best way to save for retirement?" This question is unbeknownst to many households.
According to a survey conducted by Bankrate.com, "Majority of Americans don't know how much they'll need to retire." Their study reported that 61% don't know how much they need. This can make retirement planning very difficult and confusing.
While you may be socking away funds into an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA), 401(k), or pension, is it enough to maintain your standard of living? These are incredible retirement pillars, but are you monitoring its progress and is it enough?
Once you are funding enough, are you regularly reviewing the progression towards your retirement goal? You know, life happens. Certain events or financial stressors occur and may put you behind. In this article, you'll discover three tips to get your household moving forward towards saving for retirement while never needing another dime.
Many have dreams of reaching a million dollars for retirement. Everyone has a different number, but a million dollars most likely isn't enough. This isn't to discourage you but to deliver honest financial advice. Most retirees outlive their retirement because they either continue to increase their standard of living or they overspend it because they can't control their spending.
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1. Set A Retirement Goal
Chris Hogan writes, "If you want to turn your retirement dreams into reality, you need to see where you are today, dream of where you want to go, and make a plan to get there." This means to take a deep, in-depth look at what you plan to do after you retire and recognize the standard of living you hope to accomplish.
So how do you set a retirement goal? You might think it's difficult, but it is simple. It boils down to three components:
Know How Much to Save
Create a Plan
Monitor the Plan
Determine how much to save by using a retirement calculator by Vanguard. Their simple tool outputs a monthly withdrawal amount based on a few simple factors such as your current age, how much you have saved, and your current monthly savings.
Next, create a plan of how much you want to withdrawal monthly from your retirement that meets your standard of living without it depleting your retirement sooner than you anticipate.
Finally, monitor and revisit this plan to ensure you are reaching its annual milestones. It is a chance to rebalance your portfolio by shifting stocks to bonds or fixed-income opportunities.
2. Set Aside a 10-20% of Your Income
Now that you can visually see your goal, it's time to start making progress towards it. You can only reach your goal by saving money. You may already be saving money through your 401(k) or regularly contributing to an IRA. But do you know the percentage you are investing or saving every month?
Designating a percentage acts as a consistent target to help you reach your goal. I've heard a few financial planners mention that when living in retirement, strive to leave no money behind for dependents as it is money he or she has earned. So why not spend it?
The problem with this advice is nobody knows how long he or she will live, which makes planning difficult. Fortunately, tools are available.
With tools like the Retirement Planner from MarketWatch, you can adjust the sliders on their chart based on current age, retirement age, and your annual savings. The table produces a graph delivering a visual of when your money will run out and will provide a diagram to reflect how your money can grow based on a few lifestyle choices.
Another great resource is the Retirement Calculator by Nerdwallet.com, allowing you to input your monthly contribution amount, anticipated monthly retirement spending, and when you want to retire.
I encourage you to check it out as it puts things into perspective. You may even find your current contribution percentage isn't enough. You may yet discover that it may be beneficial to work for two-to-four more years to reach the point in the graph where your money starts generating more than what you spend.
Also, take advantage of FREE MONEY! That's right, free! Most firms will match your 401(k) contributions up to a designated percentage. Be sure to contribute, at a minimum, up to the amount your firm will match.
If you have the means, ensure to max out your 401(k) and Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRA) if possible. If you have not set up an IRA yet, consider getting one as it has tax-benefits.
Another option, after you have maxed out your tax-friendly retirement accounts, is to contribute to a mutual fund or some investment account.
3. Find Additional Income Sources if Falling Short of Goals
If you find yourself falling behind in your annual contributions, then there are a few things you can do to get back on track.
The first thing to tackle is to review where you managed to slip up in your goal of saving the last few months. Determine if you are overspending, not saving enough, or don't have a solid plan in place. Using services like Betterment can you assist you in regular monthly savings. They offer financial advice from experts if you situations you need explained or need a little guidance.
Next, find ways to get back on track by selling some unused items around the house, driving for Lyft for a few weeks part-time, or save money by using a finance app like Acorns. Also, be mindful of your everyday purchases.
As consumers, we immediately flock to convenience over price. Businesses know this, which is why most products and services sold today are based on 'saving time'. Take a look at Amazon Prime, Shipt, Uber Eats, and many others designed to save you time. You pay to save time.
In a past article, 21 Simple Ways to Save Money, I highlight numerous ways to put money back into your pocket from saving money while traveling and booking hotels to browsing new quality insurance companies.
These might seem like straightforward steps, but slow and steady is what gets you across the finish line. Saving for retirement is like running a marathon. It isn't a one-mile run or jogging a 10K. Like training for a marathon, runners have taken the time to perfect their pace of the run, have made the discipline in dieting and exercising regularly, and have worked their way up to run the 26.22 miles. Marathons and saving for retirement are both not easy feats. They take practice, discipline, and consistency.
"Saving money for retirement is like running a marathon."
Determine how much you are saving from each paycheck. Is this a fixed-dollar amount or a percentage of your paycheck? Can you increase the amount annually without sacrificing your lifestyle? By properly budgeting, you can quickly rid unwanted expenses.
Sometimes there are scenarios where you are living by stretching every dollar in your budget. Ask yourself, "When was the last time I received a raise?" Are you due for one? Even getting a percentage bump that matches the annual inflation rate can help meet those pesky expenses. In a Money.com article, 5 Ways to Get a Big Raise, it highlights several steps and tips on how to script out a plan to ask for a raise. It is easy to get down on yourself when you feel like you are so far behind on saving money for your future. Understand that so many households are in this same financial situation but also recognize that you must take action. It is the most critical step in accomplishing future savings. Remember that saving money for retirement is like a marathon...it is slow and steady.
Nick Carroll is a published author of 6 Steps to Achieve Financial Freedom and has worked as a Commercial Credit Analyst, Investment Marketing Associate, and worked at the Pentagon-Air Force Budget Office. He is a graduate of Creighton University with a Masters in Investment Management and Financial Analysis and holds a Bachelor's in Banking & Finance.