Are you currently saving money for retirement? If not, you aren't alone. According to research from the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, 49% of Americans are not contributing to any retirement plan whatsoever. And even if you are already saving for retirement, you can always do yourself a favor and increase your contributions. So whether you're just starting out or need to ramp up your existing savings, here are four strategies to save more money for retirement:
1. Don't Buy a New Car
Just because the date is coming when your car will be paid off doesn't mean that you must automatically take out a new loan and buy another car. Whether you're currently paying $200 per month for your car loan or $500, apply that extra money to your retirement savings once your vehicle is paid off. Continue to follow your car's recommended maintenance guidelines based on your owner's manual to keep it in excellent condition, and stick with what you have for another few years.
2. Reduce Your Home and Personal Expenses
Invest in a programmable thermostat to reduce your home energy costs, and check with your energy provider to see if you can receive a free home audit. If so, a rep will come to your home and examine it to provide you with a list of ways to cut costs. Furthermore, you may be surprised to discover how much money you can save on home energy by properly insulating doors and windows, switching to CFL bulbs, and keeping your air conditioner filter clean. During the cold months of the year, wear an extra layer of clothing rather than cranking up the heat, and review your current wardrobe, hanging on to older clothes to reduce your purchases.
Above all, every time you go to spend money on anything, ask yourself if you truly need to make the purchase. In many instances, the answer will be no.
3. Start a Side Gig
In your spare time, check out online survey websites such as Ipsos or Survey Spot, and fill out surveys to earn actual cash or points good for gift cards. Payouts are in the range of $3 to $5 per survey, so you need to be aggressive to drum up significant cash. If that doesn't appeal to you, check out the Delve and Focus Pointe Global websites, and generate income by participating in market research surveys and panel group discussions. You can earn as much as $200 for just several hours of your time. Next, de-clutter your drawers and closets, and sell your unwanted items on eBay or Amazon, or hold a garage sale. For more time-intensive methods to earn extra cash, use your current expertise and look for freelance writing jobs on the websites Elance or Guru.
4. Invest Your Money Strategically
If you currently have actively managed mutual funds in your portfolio, consider a switch to lower-cost investments, such as index funds or exchange traded funds. Actively managed funds often come with higher management fees, which, over time, can eat away at your portfolio.
Ultimately, your goal should be to max out your retirement plans each year. For 2014, you're allowed to contribute as much as $17,500 to your 401k plan. For traditional or Roth IRAs, the cut off is $5,500 (or $6,500 if you're aged 50 or older).
If you have more than that to invest, consider opening a health savings account, where individuals can contribute $3,300 and families can contribute $6,550 this year. This can be especially wise if you currently have a high-deductible health plan. Use what you need to for medical expenses, and let the surplus accumulate to be used in retirement. It's a great way to complement your savings strategy.
What other ways can you think of to save more money for retirement?
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