The Slacker's Guide to Saving for Retirement

Whether retirement is coming soon or feels far away, it’s something you need to think about. Include it as part of your budget, even if only to remind yourself that retirement is one of your financial goals.

Earlier Is Better

In the beginning of your career, you may be able to set aside only a small amount of money for retirement savings. Your salary is likely low and you have other, more immediate financial needs. Paying rent, buying groceries and commuting to work may eat up a large portion of your paycheck. Plus, you have other reasons to save — like for an emergency fund, buying a home or going back to school. Many people also have debt obligations that need to be paid off.

It’s a good idea to have separate accounts for all these different goals, even if in the beginning they will each hold only a small amount of money. Just make sure they are held in accounts that do not have high minimums. Paying high fees can quickly negate your saving.

Start Small

Adding a row for retirement in your budget is a good start. If you are able, contribute enough to your company 401(k) to get the full benefit of the company match. If you are already doing that or your company doesn’t offer a retirement plan, look into opening an individual retirement account. If none of these seems financially realistic, there are still ways to begin saving.

Start with small contributions. Try earmarking $25 from each paycheck for retirement savings. If you don’t notice the difference in your take-home pay (and you probably won’t!), then bump up the amount. Continue doing this until you feel you’ve reached your limit.

Ratchet Up Retirement Savings

Once you’ve reached a contribution level you are comfortable with, don’t rest. Find ways to increase your saving each year. Use raises or bonuses to give your savings a boost through one-time contributions or by increasing the percentage of your paycheck you contribute to a retirement savings plan.

Assess the amount you are saving for retirement regularly as well as what you expect from retirement and how much money you will need in retirement. This may change as you get older and closer to retirement. It’s a good idea to do this assessment at least once a year. Use tax time or bonus time as a reminder to look into retirement too.

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