If the idea of not having enough money to retire keeps you up at night, there's some good news. You can proactively take some steps so this fear doesn't become your reality. But you need to start soon. Here are five concrete things you can do now to help ensure you're in the best position possible when it's time to retire.
1. Maximize your employer's matching funds
Take a look at your company benefits and make sure you're taking full advantage of whatever matching funds your employer offers. This could be through a 401(k), a SIMPLE IRA, or a 401(b), depending on the company where you work. You want to contribute at least enough to get the maximum matching funds that your employer offers.
Many companies offer "matching funds" when you contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. They typically match your contributions at 50% or 100%, up to a percentage of your salary (often 6%).
Let's say your company matches your contributions at 50%, up to 6% of your total salary. If you invest the full 6% of your salary into the employer-sponsored retirement plan, your employer will put in an additional 3% of your salary. Whatever your employer's matching fund policy is, you should contribute at least to the matching cap. Anything else is leaving money with your name on it on the table.3
2. Save for post-retirement healthcare with an HSA
A health savings account (HSA) is a great way to reduce your tax burden today while potentially saving for your healthcare needs in retirement. The money you contribute to an HSA is tax-deductible in that year, your earnings can grow tax-free, and withdrawals are free from tax too if you spend them on qualifying healthcare expenses.4 HSA funds also roll over from year to year, meaning you won't lose them if you don't use them.
This makes HSAs really powerful tools for retirement, considering healthcare expenses will likely be the biggest line item in your budget as a retiree.
If you can contribute to an HSA during your working years and then use your cash flow to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare costs while you're still employed, that could help you create a healthcare-specific (and tax-advantaged) nest egg to tap into once you do retire.
Money in a health savings account (HSA) rolls over from year to year, meaning you won't lose the money if you don't use it in a given year. HSA funds are a great way to save for medical expenses in retirement.
3. Consider lifestyle changes to free up cash flow
If you can spend less today, it means you can save more for your financial future. Any expense you can eliminate from your budget makes it easier to create the savings you need to retire when you want.
You don't have to be extremely frugal. Here are some ideas of where to cut back without feeling like you've cut out all the fun stuff:
Swap expensive memberships or regular purchases for cheaper alternatives. For example, find a gym that costs $50 per month instead of $100, or shop at the grocery store that offers more sales.
Look at your current spending and ask yourself: does this reflect what's most important to me? If your values center around time spent with family or supporting your community, then the frequent shopping sprees at the mall or on Amazon indicate your spending might not align with your values. Spend on what's important — and be willing to scrimp in areas that don't reflect your values.
Consider downsizing on major expenses, like living costs (i.e., rent or mortgage) or what kind of car you drive. While minding the little things will make a difference, one or two big lifestyle changes could free up hundreds of dollars per month.
Once you reduce your expenses, make sure that money gets invested for your retirement.
4. Don't just save — invest
Saving money is great, but when it comes to building the nest egg you need to support yourself during retirement, saving alone may not be enough. Interest-bearing checking accounts, money markets, and CDs all provide some return, but not much — and the average rate of inflation will likely be more than that return, meaning your cash will have less purchasing power in the future.
Investing your money, on the other hand, gives you a chance to earn a more significant return. While there is risk involved with investing, if you keep your money invested for many years (think decades), then those returns get a chance to compound and earn returns of their own.
5. Earn more income today
There are only so many costs you can cut and pennies you can pinch. If you feel like you're doing everything you can to save but it's still not enough for retirement, it's time to consider earning more.
Look for ways to boost your income today, which will give you more available cash to save and invest for the future. Some potential ways of increasing your earnings include:
Looking for a new position and negotiating higher pay.
Taking on more hours at work or taking on more responsibility (that could then justify you asking for a raise).
Going back to school (or getting a specific certification), if an advanced degree would increase your job opportunities and earning potential.
Starting your own side business or freelancing gig.
Picking up a part-time position doing work you enjoy (which is important, considering this will be in addition to your full-time job).
You don't have to fear running out of money. The key is to look at how you can secure your future now, instead of simply hoping things work out. If you are ready to talk with someone to help you plan for the future, call us at 1-888-SYNOVUS (1-888-796-6887) or find a Synovus location near you.
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This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
"Older People Fear This More Than Death," Catey Hill, Marketwatch, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/older-people-fear-this-more-than-death-2016-07-18.
"Americans' Biggest Retirement Fear: Running Out of Money," Lea Hart, Journal of Accountancy, https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2016/oct/americans-fear-running-out-of-retirement-money-201615242.html.
"The No. 1 Mistake Americans Make When Saving for Retirement," Emmie Martin, CNBC Make It, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/30/the-no-1-retirement-savings-mistake-is-skipping-the-401k-match.html.
"The Triple Tax Benefit of Health Savings Accounts," Kate Stalter, US News and World Report, https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/mutual-funds/articles/2015/05/18/the-triple-tax-benefit-of-health-savings-accounts.
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