- Curb credit: Sixty-seven percent of "successful" retirement savers say their top key to a better retirement is limiting the use of credit. That means holding back on credit cards, not buying a new car every three to five years or, for younger Americans, not getting bogged down with heavy student loan debt. Cut those credit costs, plug in the money you save for retirement and you're way ahead of the game.
- Save early: Ask any financial adviser the key to saving enough for retirement and he or she will immediately answer, "Start saving early." If you max out on your company 401(k) plan and don't dip into your retirement savings throughout the course of your career, you should have no problem accumulating enough cash to retire at age 65 -- or earlier. (BankingMyWay offers a helpful retirement planning calculator that allows you to measure how much you're saving -- and need to save -- for retirement.)
- Avoid "luxury" items: TD Ameritrade says 58% of the successful retirement savers it tracks said they spend less on so-called "luxury items" such as high-end cars and trucks, 3,000-foot McMansions or lavish trips abroad. Driving a more economical car or living in a smaller, more affordable home can mean a world of difference when saving enough for a good retirement.
- Aim for a higher salary: This one isn't easy, but 56% of the Americans surveyed by TD Ameritrade says the key to their successful planning efforts was a "an excellent salary." It's hard to tie your career to a dollar sign, but if you can take full advantage of bonuses, raises and promotions in the workplace and steer that cash toward retirement (there is, after all, no law that says you have to spend a bonus), you'll gain a big financial boost later in life.
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