If you are woefully behind on saving for retirement, then try to delay gratification on purchases, save your raises and pay off credit cards, financial experts say.
A national survey out Tuesday shows that about 36% of workers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments that could be used for retirement, not counting their primary residence or defined benefits plans such as traditional pensions, and 60% of workers have less than $25,000.
Like workers, many retirees are also short on funds, with 29% of them having less than $1,000 in savings and investments, and 58% of them having less than $25,000, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 workers and 501 retirees from the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates.
USA TODAY asked financial experts for their five best tips for boosting savings and income now and during retirement:
Delay gratification. Don’t buy everything you see, says Gary Schatsky, a New York City financial planner and president of ObjectiveAdvice.com. People have to take stock of their needs vs. their wants. “Needs must be met. Wants can be delayed. One of the things you need is a good retirement plan, some savings for emergencies and a plan for the future.”
You have to make a priority list of what you need and want, he says. “You can enjoy lattes, dinners out and vacations as long as you are saving. You have to decide what’s important to you and start saying no to the things that are not.”
Save 10% to 15% of your annual income. “While that may seem like a daunting amount, if you set it up early, you can learn to live on the amount that’s left,” says Fidelity Investments Executive Vice President John Sweeney. “We recommend putting 10% to 15% right into retirement accounts, because a lot of our retirement savings is going to be up to us.”
By investing in a 401(k) or 403(b), or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you can reduce your taxable income, he says. “You are saving money because you are paying taxes on the lower income level.”
Take advantage of matching contributions. If your employer offers matching contributions in your workplace savings plan, take it, Sweeney says. Many employers offer a 3% match on an employee’s first 3% contribution.
Save your raise. “If you get a raise, bank it,” Sweeney says. Consider investing all or a portion of your raises each year, he says. You can do the same with bonuses or tax refunds.
Pay off high-interest-rate credit card debt. If you are paying 18% interest on credit card debt, “that’s eating a hole in your pocket,” Sweeney says. It’s important to pay it off, if you can, or the second choice is to think about ways to reduce the interest payment, such as getting a home equity loan that has a lower interest rate.
Another option for some people is to continue working during their retirement years, says Nick Ventura, CEO of Ventura Wealth Management in Ewing, N.J. “Many part-time jobs exist in retail, health care and other businesses. Helping people and bringing life experience to these jobs can be very rewarding for many retirees.”
Exactly how much you will need for retirement is complicated because there are so many variables, including your essential expenses (food, housing, health care) and discretionary expenses (travel, clothes, entertainment, dining out), Sweeney says. “Everybody’s situation is going to be a little different.”
People often underestimate how long they are going to live, he says. “A quarter of us will live into our early 90s, so we are really planning for a retirement that could last 30 years.”
All that said, Fidelity offers this rule of thumb: Save at least eight times your final salary to help increase the odds that you won’t outlive your savings during 30 years in retirement. This amount assumes that you’ll get some money from Social Security and that your expenses after you retire will be lower than when you were working, Sweeney says. Higher net-worth folks usually need to save more than eight times their final salary, he says
Source: Nanci Hellmich, USA Today, 2014