Americans Are Ramping Up Their Retirement Savings Efforts, but Most Still Have Work to Do

We hear a lot about the importance of saving for retirement, especially given the fact that Social Security can't sustain seniors by itself. And while new data from Bankrate reveals that many Americans are doing a better job of saving this year than in years past, most workers haven't managed to ramp up their savings rates in 2018.

Specifically, 28% of Americans are saving more for retirement this year compared to 2017. But while that's good news, we can't gloss over the fact that 13% of U.S. adults are saving less this year than in 2017, while 48% are saving about the same.

Why are so many workers stuck at the same savings rate or less? The main reason boils down to stagnant wages. In fact, 26% of those surveyed point to a drop or no change in income as the primary reason they're not doing better with retirement savings. And while that's certainly a valid explanation, here's how workers can overcome their income-related challenges to eke out more savings for the future.

1. Live a more modest lifestyle

It's hard to save money for retirement when you're dealing with the same salary year after year, and your living expenses keep going up. But if that's the situation you're facing, it may be time to reexamine those monthly bills and see about lowering them.

So take a look at your budget, or create one if you don't yet have one in place, and find ways to cut corners. That could mean downsizing to a smaller apartment or house, unloading a vehicle if public transportation is available where you live, or curbing your leisure spending and finding free entertainment instead. It doesn't really matter which expenses you cut as long as you're achieving the goal of freeing up cash that can then be used to build your nest egg.

2. Get a side hustle

If your primary job won't pay you enough to allow for a substantial level of savings, it's time to consider getting a second one. In fact, 14% of workers who hold down a side hustle do so for the express purpose of establishing a nest egg. The great thing about getting a second job is that the money you earn from it won't already be earmarked for another purpose. Therefore, you should have no problem putting all of it into your IRA or 401(k).

3. Fight for a raise

Maybe your wages haven't gone up in years -- but have you actually stepped up and asked for more money? According to job site CareerBuilder, 56% of employees have never requested a raise. But among those who did, 66% were successful. If a salary boost is what it will take to allow you to do better on retirement savings, then you'll need to psych yourself up to have that conversation with your manager.

First, do your research to see if your salary is up to par. If it isn't, take that data to your boss and prove that you're being underpaid given your job title and experience level. Next, be prepared to talk up the ways you offer value to your company, whether it's consistently clocking in long hours to help meet deadlines or bringing unique skills to the table. Finally, summarize the ways you've singlehandedly saved or made your company money through the years, whether by streamlining operations, catching invoicing or payroll errors, or delivering successful sales pitches. If you can break down your contributions into actual hard numbers, it'll help make the case for a raise. And none of these tactics work, you might consider taking your talent elsewhere -- namely, to an employer who's willing to pay you what you're worth.

While it's encouraging to see that 28% of Americans are ramping up their retirement savings, most folks need to do better. So, if salary issues alone are holding you back, take steps to lower your living costs, get some side work, and negotiate a higher income. Otherwise, your nest egg could end up falling short in retirement, and that's not a risk you should be willing to take.

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