Because Social Security benefits are not enough to provide a comfortable life, especially for seniors with significant health concerns, failing to build robust retirement savings ultimately means that retirement is all but impossible. Rising numbers of Americans over 65 looking for work demonstrate that doing the bare minimum to prepare for retirement does not a successful retirement plan make.
However, not everyone can easily make room in their household budget for intensive retirement savings. If you are barely able to pay rent and utilities, how are you supposed to save money for an uncertain future?
Return to Your Budget
If you don’t already have a household budget, your first step should be to create one. Retirement planning begins with understanding the costs of your current lifestyle and projecting these expenses forward to develop an idea of how much money you need to save for a comfortable retirement. Building a budget will give you a picture of your cash flow and provide more control over how you are using your money, which might free up some money for retirement savings.
When surveying your budget, you should look for unnecessary luxuries. For example, you might pay for multiple streaming platforms — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO — but neglect to use one or more. Similarly, you might be paying for more cable or internet services than you need, or you might have bad habits of eating out or clothes shopping more than is required for your mental wellbeing. Your goal isn’t to reduce your expenses to the bare minimum of survival, but to trim the fat and find money that might be better used in your retirement fund.
While you should be aiming to save up enough to keep you comfortable for your entire retirement, it is true that some money in your retirement savings is much, much better than no money at all. Even if you can’t afford the full 15 percent of your income devoted to your retirement account, you might be able to deposit $20 per month, or even just $5 per month, into a Roth IRA. Over time, these small amounts will accrue interest, which will make them more beneficial when you retire.
Another tactic is to save certain types of surprise income you come across. You might devote your tax refund to your retirement account, or in the two months where you receive three paychecks, your extra pay might go directly into retirement. If you find money in your pockets or couch cushions, that cash should also be used to bolster your retired lifestyle. Some people commit cash of a certain denomination, like $5 bills or $10 bills, to their retirement account, so they don’t spend all the cash they have on hand. There are dozens of tricks to scrimp and save small amounts of money, so you should try a few to see what works for building your retirement account.
Commit Your Raises
Over time, your income should increase. Some people increase their income through promotions and raises; others become more efficient at their work or find higher paying clients. You might also consider adopting a side hustle, like selling homemade crafts online or doing some freelance work (as long as it does not impact your primary income). Whatever your case may be, you should be increasing your retirement contributions as your income increases. For example, if you receive a raise of 2 percent, you should raise your retirement deposits by the same amount. You should continue doing this until your retirement contributions reach 15 percent of your income per year.
As tempting as it might be to utilize your additional income to improve your lifestyle, your retirement likely needs it more. By immediately committing your raises to your retirement fund, you avoid the issue of decreasing comfort for the sake of retirement; you will not experience the new income until you truly need it, when you retire.
There is no time to think on your retirement; you need to start acting on your retirement plan now to ensure you have enough saved to keep you comfortable and healthy. You can save for retirement even on a meager budget as long as you commit to the idea of a full retirement account.