Consumers are distressingly behind on their retirement savings as many people are saddled with credit card debt and student loans.
Ramping up your savings weekly or even daily is critical to accumulating enough money once you retire. Here are five easy ways to increase your savings.
1. Invest Your Raise
For all intents and purposes, "forgo" your latest raise, since you are already accustomed to living on a lesser amount; instead, have the increase automatically diverted it into your 401(k) or IRA.
“Act as if you didn’t receive a raise and invest the raise for retirement,” said Robert Johnson, president of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa. “You won’t even miss the money.”
Even if you don’t invest every raise, you will still be ahead.
“If you simply invest your first raise and continue to have that same amount taken out of your paycheck and invested each pay period, you will accumulate significant wealth over your financial planning horizon,” he said.
Another option is to increase your contributions every year by the percentage of your raise. If you receive a 3% raise, increase your contribution by 3%, said Daniel Keady, a senior director and CFP for TIAA, the N.Y.-based financial services provider.
2. Take More Risk
One major problem with many investors today is that a large number of them are fearful of losing money despite the fact that the stock market has rebounded since the Great Recession. Their portfolios are too conservative, because they are not taking enough risk, Johnson said. Although many of them are Millennials and Gen X-ers and have several decades until they retire, they are still opting for “low risk, low return assets,” he said.
If you are faced with student loans, a car loan and some credit card debt, the amount you are saving may not be quite enough. Combining that scenario by choosing low return investments could put you at risk for not having enough money in the future.
The returns on large cap stocks have historically beaten bonds, said Johnson. A diversified portfolio of large capitalization stocks returned 11.4% annually from 1950 through 2014 while long-term government bonds returned 6.2%.
3. Invest Early and Often
Adjust the amount of money that is withheld from each paycheck and allocate that amount for a retirement account, said J.J. Montanaro, a certified financial planner at USAA, a San Antonio, Texas-based financial institution.
“In 2016, put your tax return to work throughout the year, and while you may end up with a smaller return next year, you’ll be boosting your retirement,” he said.
Waiting for all of your debt to be paid off to save might be too late. Investing at age 25 means investors could receive greater returns. A 25-year old who allocates $200 into a retirement account every month earning 10% will have accumulated $1.264 million at 65, said Johnson. That same investor who waits ten years and starts saving at age 35 will only have amassed $452,000 by age 65.
“The key to investment success is to invest early and often,” he said. “With investments, time is your best ally.”
Increase your contributions by raising the amount 1% each year whether it is in a 401(k) or IRA, said Jim Wright, a portfolio manager with Covestor, the online investing marketplace, and chief investment officer of Harvest Financial Partners, a registered investment advisor in Paoli, Pa. A 25-year old earning $25,000 per year would add $250 for a 1% increase in their contributions. When you turn 65, the additional contribution will be worth $2,500 if you earn 6% a year.
“It’s not bad and you do not even need to forgo your cup of Starbucks every day to pay for it,” he said. “It is a small enough amount that it will be hardly noticed, but over your lifetime it could have a great impact.”
Rebalance your portfolio at least once a year, said Spencer Betts, a CFP at Bickling Financial Services in Lexington, Mass.
“So many people set up their asset allocation and never make a change or at least rebalance to the original asset allocation,” he said.
Avoid checking your account balance often from your smartphone because retirement investing is for the long-term. The stock market’s current volatility is likely to continue and could be more commonplace.
“Don’t let short-term volatility dictate your long-term investment goals,” Betts said. “Set your risk/growth allocation and then don’t look at it on a daily basis.”
4. Lower Expenses
Consider determining your budget based on February’s income, he said.
“Since most employees are paid biweekly, if you use February as your base for your budget, you will have two months with an extra paycheck,” Betts said. “Use those months to put a little extra into your 401(k).”
Examine your credit card statements and find the expensive “auto ship” subscriptions in your budget, said Bill Kearney, president of Integrated Financial Concepts, a Huntersville, N.C.-based financial services company.
“Do you really need to spend $150 per month on probiotics?” he said. “Maybe there’s a comparable $25 plan, but don’t let the savings flow back into your spending. You’re already budgeted for the $150 per month, so just reroute the $125 savings into savings and investments.”
Attempt to reduce some of your monthly bills by 10%, Kearney said.
“It’s easier than you think, especially with satellite companies and cell phone companies always competing for your business,” he said. “Don’t let the savings flow into your spending.
Despite the fact that your friends or family are always touting a great deal they received buying the latest electronics or vacation online, avoid falling into that mindset, said Sreeni Meka, founder of Lakeland Wealth Management, a registered investment advisor in Memphis, Tenn. and a portfolio manager with Covestor.
“The biggest culprit in our society is comparing with Joneses,” he said. “If we can curtail instant knee-jerk action, it is very easy to save. One of my wealthy friends told me that anytime his kids ask to upgrade their home, he shows them pictures of Warren Buffett’s house.”
Start IRA or Roth IRA Account
Simply investing in your 401(k) at work might not yield you enough money. Starting an IRA or Roth IRA can increase your savings.
If you anticipate being in a lower tax bracket in retirement, you should contribute to a traditional IRA, said Laurie Samay, a CFP and portfolio manager with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Scarsdale, N.Y. People who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket in retirement should contribute to a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k).
“Where you start accumulating these savings is extremely important because not all savings vehicles are created equally,” she said. “After ten years of savings, you’re rewarded with the ability to make catch up contributions. The IRS allows individuals who are 50 to investment another $6,000 for a 401(k) and $1,000 for an IRA or Roth IRA.”
Save throughout the year with monthly contributions, said Robert Schmansky, founder of Clear Financial Advisors in Livonia, Mich.
“It's easier to hit savings goals when they are smaller,” he said. “Instead of trying to save the maximum of $5,500 per year to your Roth IRA, break that up to $458.33 per month.”
When you change jobs, avoid “cashing out” of your 401(k) and rollover the money into an IRA or Roth IRA, said Keady.
Even if you have been lax on your budget in the past, starting tomorrow is better than waiting.
“Stop beating yourself up for not saving enough in the past,” Kearney said. “Remember that that the best time to start saving was ten years ago. The second best time is today.”