NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Despite a rocky economy and a stock market returning pennies on the dollar so far in 2014, we're seeing some good news on the personal retirement front.
A study from Financial Finesse, an online money management website, reports that American workers are "more focused" on their money issues, especially their retirement planning.
All the news isn't good, though. According to Financial Finesse, 42% of survey respondents say they are concerned they will not reach future financial goals, versus 35% in 2012.
Maybe that's why so many workers are more energized about their retirement savings.
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"With the increased urgency, employees overall are becoming more proactive about their financial planning and making improvements in areas that support their long-term financial security," the study says.
Financial Finesse also says a "greater percentage of employees are taking steps to improve their financial situations on a regular basis":
- 47% have taken a risk tolerance assessment, versus 44% in 2012.
- 36% say they rebalance their investment accounts, versus 31% in 2012.
- 47% are maximizing all available federal tax credits and deductions, up from 44% in 2012.
Here are a few thoughts on ways you can improve your long-term savings goals, especially if you're saving through a 401(k) plan or an IRA:
Don't borrow from your 401(k). Sometimes people need cash, and right away. (Think of a major health issue or natural disaster such as a flood or hurricane for which insurance doesn't cover the loss.) But if you borrow the money from your 401(k) plan and don't pay the money back right away, you're taking money away that was compounding annually, putting a major dent in your retirement savings.
Review other options. Maybe you own a money market account? Or a bank savings account that's not earning much interest? Borrowing cash from either of those poses less risk for your long-term financial health than from a 401(k).
Upping your regular retirement plan savings. Even adding another $50 per paycheck to what you're already saving can mean a big difference down the road when you retire. You'll barely miss the money, especially if you cut back on non-essential spending items such as nights out on the town or an expensive latte every day.
Reallocate your assets. If you ignore fund holdings in your retirement account, you could be weighted on the wrong side of the financial markets and be losing money as a result. Avoid that by working with a trusted financial adviser or talking to your employer's retirement plan sponsor about a good asset allocation strategy that balances your retirement account properly among solid investment fund categories. It could mean a big difference in your retirement fund's annual returns, especially if you haven't been paying close attention.