You Won't Believe What an Extra $1,000 in Your 401(k) Can Do

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In 2018, you'll be able to contribute up to $18,500 to a 401(k). However, chances are good you won't actually contribute the maximum.

Only about one in 10 workers in the U.S. maxed out their 401(k) contributions in 2016, according to Vanguard. Many of those super savers took steps most people aren't willing to take, like forgo vacations, drive old cars, and skip time with loved ones to put in more hours at work.

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If you aren't ready to take such drastic steps, the good news is that you don't have to do much to make a big impact on your nest egg, especially if you're still young. Contributing just $1,000 extra to your 401(k) could give your savings a major boost.

An extra $1,000 can turn into more than $320,000

Contributing an extra $1,000 per month to your 401(k) is a small change when averaged out over the course of the year. To increase 401(k) contributions by $1,000 in 2018, you'd need to contribute around $83 more per month or $38.46 more per paycheck if paid biweekly.

You'd be amazed at how much of an impact $38 per paycheck can have. This chart shows how much your $1,000 annual contribution would turn into, depending on how old you are. It's based on earning a 7% return, contributing $1,000 throughout your career, and retiring at the age of 67 -- full retirement age for Social Security purposes for Americans born after 1960.

Age When You Begin Investing

Total Invested From
Your $1,000 Annual Contributions

Value of Your $1,000 Annual Investment
at Age 67

Investment Gains
on $1,000 Annual Investment

20

$47,000

$329,224

$282,224

25

$42,000

$230,632

$188,632

30

$37,000

$160,337

$123,337

35

$32,000

$110,218

$78,218

40

$27,000

$74,483

$47,483

45

$22,000

$49,005

$27,005

50

$17,000

$30,840

$13,840

55

$12,000

$17,888

$5,888

60

$7,000

$8,554

$1,554

And if your employer matches your contributions, the amount could double if your match is dollar-for-dollar on the contributions you're making.

The median retirement account balance is just $5,000 for all working-age families in the United States, so even if you contributed your extra $1,000 starting at age 60, just this investment alone would mean you'd be doing better than far too many Americans.

Where can you find your extra $1,000?

The numbers speak for themselves -- it's worth contributing an extra $1,000 to your 401(k) annually.

However, around 80% of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck . If you're one of them, it may seem daunting to find the necessary $38.46 per check. Here are a few suggestions to come up with the cash:

  • Skip a meal out: The average cost of a meal consumed outside the home is $12.75 per person. Brown-bag your lunch for just seven days a month or skip one dinner out for your family of four per pay period and you'd have your $1,000.
  • Get rid of your unused gym membership: The average gym membership costs around $800 annually, factoring in initiation fees and monthly contract costs. Around half of gym members don't end up going to the gym at all, while many go infrequently and would be better off buying day passes rather than a membership. Canceling your gym membership is an easy way to get 80% of the way toward your $1,000 goal.
  • Try out meal planning: According to the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, the average family of four throws away anywhere from $1,365 to $2,275 in foot annually. Cutting out food waste by making a meal plan -- deciding what you'll eat, buying only items on your list, and consuming leftovers -- would give you enough to invest an additional $1,000.
  • Cancel or cut your cable: The mean cost of a pay TV cable package in 2016 was $103 monthly in 2016. If you can switch to a lower-cost streaming service such as Sling TV or Hulu, you'll still have plenty of entertainment options and can use the difference to make a $1,000 investment that could turn into a five- or six-figure sum.

There are also plenty of other ways to reduce spending so you can save more for retirement and have more cash to spare as a senior when you really need it. Just find one that works for you.

Invest that $1,000 in yourself

If you work a traditional 40-hour workweek and have a two-week vacation, you'll spend around 2,000 hours of your life working next year. You owe it to yourself to invest some of the money you'll earn in your future.

It doesn't take much to boost your retirement contributions by just $1,000 -- and whether this $1,000 is the first you've ever contributed or is an add-on to your existing investment strategy -- you'll be a lot better off for making the contribution.

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