Saving for retirement is a major challenge for most Americans. It’s not their fault. When you have immediate bills to pay, putting aside money for a distant future may not seem like a priority. But it is important and if you don’t start saving early and save aggressively throughout your lifetime, you could find yourself facing major financial struggles in your later years.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to build a nest egg even if you don’t make a lot of money. Below are five techniques that can help you save much more money so you can enjoy a comfortable retirement free of financial worries.
1. Make good use of your “third” paycheck
If you’re like most people and get paid biweekly, you’ll receive 26 paychecks over the course of the year. That means that twice a year, you’ll get three paychecks within a month instead of two.
If you build your monthly budget based around two biweekly checks most months, then you can set aside that third check as extra and put it right into your retirement savings account. This tactic alone should allow you to set aside just over 7% of your annual income since you’ll be investing two out of the 26 paychecks you get throughout the year.
2. Use your credit card rewards
Let me start this off by saying I HATE CREDIT CARDS. They can get you into a lot of financial trouble if you fall into the credit card debt trap. They make a very tempting a seductive option for funding a life you cannot afford. This story ultimately ends with you paying more money in the long-term due to the interest charged on purchases and fees and can potentially destroy your credit score and make life way more stressful than it’s worth. But…
There are some credit cards that allow you to deposit your rewards directly into an investment account. Choose one of those for your everyday card so every purchase will help you invest money for your future. This allows you to effortlessly build a retirement nest egg, which can be a far more valuable use of credit card points than just cashing them in for plane tickets or merchandise.
Just please make sure you pay off the FULL balance ON TIME each statement period. Paying only the minimum or paying late can sink you into a financial hole that seems impossible to escape.
3. Save your raises
When you get a salary increase, immediately put the extra money into retirement savings. Since your budget and spending are built around your current income, you don’t need the additional money now anyway. If you divert it to savings right away before you get used to living on it, you’ll never miss the money.
4. Take advantage of tax credits
Tax-advantaged retirement investing, especially if you aren’t rich, has become very easy to do. You can make pre-tax contributions to a 401(k) if your employer offers one as well as to a traditional or Roth IRA. Since you don’t pay taxes on the money you’re contributing, each contribution costs you less, and the government essentially gives you free money for retirement. If you contribute $1,000 and are in the 22% tax bracket, this could save you up to $220 on your tax bill. Your $1,000 contribution would cost you only $780.
And if you make under $32,500 per year as a single tax filer or $65,000 per year as a married joint filer, you can also take advantage of the saver’s credit. This provides a tax credit worth between 10% and 50% of the first $2,000 in retirement contributions each person makes, which means married joint filers can get up to $2,000 in free money for retirement.
5. Claim your full employer match
If your employer offers a workplace 401(k), many times they’ll also match part of the contributions you make toward it. For example, your employer may match 50% of your contributions up to 6% of your salary. If your employer matches contributions, they are giving you free money. You should claim every dollar of it that’s available to you by making sure you invest enough in your 401(k) to get the full match.