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Small salary? Here's how to save for retirement

Start early. Katie Ross, education development manager for Newton, Mass.-based American Consumer Credit Counseling, says that the key to saving a sizable nest egg, no matter your income, is to start setting aside dollars at as early an age as possible.

"Even if you're just saving just $10 a week, before you know it, you'll have a nice little nest egg," Ross says.

Timbers provides proof of this: A 25-year-old who saves $100 a month for 40 years, assuming a return of 6 percent on that money, will have saved $192,725 by age 65.

Eliminate your debt. Kevin Gallegos, vice president at Freedom Financial in Phoenix, says that workers should eliminate their debt -- especially high-interest-rate credit card debt -- before worrying about saving for retirement.

"You have to look at where you are at with your debts, assets and liabilities," Gallegos says. "The tough part for anyone, but the part that needs to be taken care of first, is to get rid of that debt. Debt is going to eat away every bit of savings that you have. Your interest rates on credit cards are going to be greater than any interest you get from your savings. Get rid of your debt, then start saving."

Take advantage of tax credits. Ross recommends that low-earners take advantage of the Savers Credit available from the IRS. This credit, which is worth up to $1,000 for individuals or $2,000 for couples, can be claimed by low-income earners who contribute to IRAs, 401(k) plans or other workplace retirement accounts. Couples who are married and filing their taxes jointly can claim this tax credit if they make up to $60,000 in gross income in 2014. Those workers who are single or married but filing separately can claim the credit if they have a gross income of $30,000 or less in 2014.

Prioritize your savings. Gallegos says that low-earners have to be especially diligent about saving for retirement. This means forgoing such luxuries as those take-out cups of coffee in the morning or that newest video-game system.

"We all want our kids to have the newest and greatest stuff," Gallegos says. "But spending too much on unnecessary items can hurt your retirement plans. Not everyone can have the newest Wii or Xbox. You have to be realistic."

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