One of the most important things you can do for your finances is to prepare for the future. If you want to be able to live your desired lifestyle after you leave the workforce, saving for retirement is a must.
While you may not feel as though you have much extra money to save for retirement, the fact is you can boost your retirement contributions if you really want. Here are four strategies you can employ to increase your retirement savings:
1. Make retirement a priority.
You won’t be motivated to save more for retirement if it isn’t important to you, so you have to make it a priority. Consider all the reasons you want to retire, and visualize your life with a secure retirement.
Then, consider the things you’re doing now that detract from that goal. Are you spending too much on vacations or new clothes? Are those things as important to you as a secure retirement? Think about what you want your life to look like and what you expect to happen in the future. This prioritizing will make it easier for you to increase your retirement savings.
2. Increase your retirement savings when you get a raise.
When you get a raise, you probably aren’t immediately thinking about boosting your retirement savings—and that’s a mistake. Before you get excited about your higher monthly income, earmark some of that increase for a raise in your retirement savings. For example, if you get a 3 percent raise, increase your current retirement contribution by 3 percent. If you have been playing catch up, you can even put the entire amount of the raise toward your retirement. Your current lifestyle will stay the same, but your future may improve dramatically.
Many consumers find themselves caught up in lifestyle inflation when they see an improvement in income. Don’t give yourself that chance. Contact your HR department and find out what you need to do to have a bigger amount taken out of your regular paycheck each month.
3. Utilize a windfall.
Any time you have a windfall, use that money—or at least a portion of it—as a one-time retirement contribution. For example, you can consider a tax refund a windfall, even if you planned the refund ahead of time through bigger withholdings. Whether it’s a $200 slot machine prize, a $2,000 tax refund, or a $100,000 inheritance, put at least some of that money toward your retirement efforts.
4. Look for ways to find a little extra each month.
It’s daunting to think about maxing out your retirement account contributions within a short period of time. Instead of trying to make a huge change all at once, step up your retirement contributions. Consider adding $25 more per month to your contributions until you reach the maximum.
In order to do this, you need to look through your monthly spending. Where can you find an extra $25? Can you cut unimportant spending that doesn’t fit with your priorities? Is it possible to work a little overtime or start a side gig? It doesn’t even have to be $25. If you find an extra $15 each month, at the end of 12 months you’ll be putting in $180 more each year. It’s not a huge change, but it’s better than nothing—especially once you figure in the power of compounding interest.
If you want a better future and a comfortable retirement, you have to start planning now. Do what you can to improve your odds.
Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.