Afraid you aren’t saving enough for retirement? You’re not alone. Americans are notorious for procrastinating instead of getting to work and building a nest egg for their golden years.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The sooner you start saving, the better off you are likely to be in retirement.
If concerns about retirement keep you up at night, check out our list of the top seven moves you can make now to stop worrying and start preparing for retirement.
Take a long, hard look at your spending habits
It might be nerve-wracking to stare your budget in the face, especially if you know you haven’t stuck to it lately. But you can only plan for the future if you know the gritty details of your current financial reality.
So set aside some time to budget this week. Start by looking at your most recent bank statement to figure out where your money is going. How much are you spending on nonessentials, and where can you cut back?
Once you know where the money is going, redirect it into your savings account. Or, if necessary expenses are eating up your entire paycheck, consider picking up a side hustle to get on track to save.
You’ll learn more about the power of extra sources of income later in this list.
Throw your credit card in the trash
Some people know how to use credit cards to make money. They pay off their balance every month and take advantage of travel rewards and cash-back benefits.
Unfortunately, other folks rack up credit card debt as fast as possible, stopping only when they’ve hit their credit limit.
If you fall into the latter category, get rid of those credit cards — now. Most retirees live on a fixed income, which leaves little wiggle room to cover outstanding credit card bills with debt that compounds daily.
Even if you can’t start saving immediately, do your best to stop spending money you don’t have. That one action will go a long way toward getting your wallet retirement-ready.
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Opt into your employer’s retirement savings match
Most American companies no longer offer pensions, but many still contribute to their employees’ 401(k) retirement savings accounts.
If your employer offers a match, sign up for it — today if you can. An employer match allows you to start increasing your savings without committing an extra dime of your own money.
If you haven’t opened a 401(k) account yet, do so as soon as your finances allow. The earlier you start saving, the more interest you accumulate. Start contributing to that account as early in your working life as possible.
Pick up a side gig just to build savings
Grabbing a part-time gig can supplement your savings in a big way, especially if you can’t find any extra room in your budget to save.
And while adding more work on top of your regular job might not sound appealing, side hustles don’t have to take up all your time.
For instance, you could drive for a ride-sharing service during your daily commute or try out a transcription service that requires you to work for just an hour a day. Every penny helps.
Use your bank’s automatic savings features
Most banks and credit unions now have built-in tools to help you save. For example, the online bank Ally can round up your check payments to the nearest dollar and automatically transfer the remaining money to your savings account.
Chase Bank’s Autosave feature does something similar. You can also use it to automatically transfer a certain amount of every check you deposit into your savings account.
Even better, if you have a high-yield savings account, you’ll earn interest on every penny that you transfer from your checking to your savings account. A good interest rate will maximize the impact of each cent you save.
Most banks include these types of tools for free, so start taking advantage of them now at no cost.
Understand exactly how much you need to retire
Not sure exactly how much money you’ll need to live comfortably once you retire? It’s a lot easier to save for a concrete goal than an abstract one. Calculating the money you need for retirement can actually reduce your anxiety and help you create a plan to save.
Financial experts have different savings recommendations, but one of the most common pieces of savings wisdom is the 50/15/5 rule. If you follow this principle:
- 50% of each paycheck goes to necessary expenses such as food, housing, and transportation
- 15% of each paycheck goes straight into your retirement savings account
- 5% goes into your emergency fund
You can also meet with a financial advisor who can do the math on how much money you’ll need for retirement. This person can tell you exactly how much you need to save per week, month, and year to meet that goal.
Don’t wait to downsize
A lot of couples plan to downsize once they hit retirement. But if you’re already sure downsizing is in your future, why not start early? Ideas to consider include:
- Trade in your gas-guzzling car for a cheaper, fuel-efficient used car
- Move into a smaller house to save money on energy costs
- Get rid of your extra stuff by listing it on eBay or turning old trinkets into holiday gifts to sell on Etsy
It’s never too early to start saving for retirement, but it’s never too late to start, either.
If you’re worried about your golden years, start reducing your financial anxiety by implementing one or more of these savings tips ASAP.