Ever get the feeling you’re not saving enough to meet your retirement income needs? You’re not alone. The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey found that only half of workers are confident they know how much income they’ll need in retirement, and just one in eight is very confident.1

So how much should you be saving in your retirement accounts?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer and there’s a lot to think about. For example:

  • How much you’ve already saved.
  • How many years before you’ll need your savings.
  • Your income before retirement.
  • Your income goals in retirement.
  • How much risk you can tolerate in your retirement portfolio.

But the short answer for most people is this: Save as much as you can.

Here are five money-management tips that can give you a better chance of hitting a realistic retirement savings target.

Ramp up contributions.

Increasing retirement plan contributions — even 1% a year — can help get you into double-digit savings territory before you know it. If your employer’s plan offers matching contributions, start by saving to the match. Adding 1% a year to your savings rate after that can help you get to a healthy savings rate. The year that you turn 50, you can ramp up even faster by making catch-up contributions.

Redirect extra income.

Put a percentage of every salary raise, bonus, tax refund, and monetary gift or prize into your retirement plan.

Spend less.

Create a household budget to track where your money is going. Cut out unnecessary expenses, like a gym membership you don’t use, and move the found money into savings. A budget can also help you reduce your debt. Carrying balances on high-interest credit cards eats into your monthly income. Pay down those cards or consider consolidating several debts into one lower-interest loan. Once you pay off a credit card or loan, keep making those payments — but direct them to your retirement plan instead.

Negotiate expenses.

A phone call to customer service can often lower service contracts like cable TV or annual fees and interest rates on credit cards. You can usually reduce insurance premiums by consolidating insurance policies such as auto and home with one company.

Pay the doctor with pre-tax dollars.

Does your employer offer a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA)? You may be able to direct pre-tax dollars to help pay for qualified medical expenses like co-payments and prescriptions. Just make sure you plan your yearly expenses carefully because in some cases, any unspent money in these accounts at the end of the year may not roll over into the next year.

Make a commitment to save.

Once you make saving for retirement a priority, you can approach these tactics almost like a game. You may have to make a few sacrifices, but several small changes in how you manage your money now can help you reach your savings goals later.

 

1 Greenwald, L., Copeland, C. and VanDerhei, J. (24 April 2018). The 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey. Employee Benefit Research Institute Issue Brief, no. 431.  Retrieved Sept. 6, 2018, from https://www.ebri.org/pdf/surveys/rcs/2018/2018RCS_Report_V5MGAchecked.pdf
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