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5 Simple Moves to Shift Your Retirement Savings Into Overdrive

By Sam Swenson, CFA, CPA – Aug 18, 2021 at 7:43AM

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Read on to see how to you can make the most of your retirement savings.

It's good practice to constantly search for new ways to optimize your strategy around saving for retirement. By making small changes today, you're setting yourself up for a more comfortable financial future. Here, we'll look at five simple ways to put your retirement savings into another gear. 

1. Look into IRA options

Remember that your employer-sponsored retirement savings plan isn't the only option you have to save for retirement. You might also look into establishing an IRA -- particularly a Roth IRA -- at an independent provider of your choice. 

While IRAs don't have particularly high contribution limits, they do provide another avenue for you to save for retirement. Additionally, they tend to be lower-cost and more flexible than most employer plans. 

2. Increase your contribution percentage

The small act of increasing your contribution percentage to your employer's 401(k) plan by even 1% or 2% can have an outsize effect on your retirement savings balance at retirement.

This tends to be an effective way of supercharging your retirement accounts for two reasons: First, a 1% change in contributions doesn't feel like you're making a huge sacrifice, and second, these contributions happen before you ever receive the money in your checking account. 

Thus, increasing your 401(k) contribution percentage is a stealthy and often pain-free way of accumulating a higher retirement savings balance. 

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3. Repurpose your HSA

If you have access to a health savings account, using it as an off-label retirement account is another way to make the most of tax-advantaged savings space. HSA contribution limits aren't particularly generous, but you can still use the account effectively to grow your net worth in a meaningful way. 

However, this assumes that you'll have funds available to pay for any current unreimbursed medical costs. If you're in this fortunate position, you can use your HSA as a tax-advantaged vehicle for retirement savings -- which can ultimately be used for unforeseen health costs later in life. 

4. Invest at least up to the match

When investing in any employer plan that offers a matching contribution, make it an annual priority to get the match every year. If your employer matches up to 5% of your salary, for example, for any contributions to its 401(k) plan, make sure to contribute at least 5% on an annual basis. 

This is a way to guarantee a 100% return on your money without any risk -- an offer that doesn't come around often. The decision to contribute beyond 5% is a personal one, and will depend on the other retirement accounts available in your fleet of retirement vehicles. 

5. Diversify globally

Markets in the United States have been on fire since the bottom of the pandemic-induced recession. But that's no reason to believe that they'll continue to perform the same way going forward. 

Diversification -- particularly through the use of international funds -- is a great way to build in further insurance to your asset allocation. International markets haven't seen the same run-up of American markets over the past several decades, but many projections (like the one by Vanguard) indicate there could be more room for overseas growth in the 2020s. 

Remember that the future is uncertain to everyone; one of the best ways to ensure you come out ahead in the long run is to diversify both your opportunities for return and your risk exposures. 

Keep things simple

Personal finance can be as complicated as you want to make it, but you'll quickly find that your financial life will become much easier if you simplify aggressively. Small, incremental changes taken early in your investing career have big impacts down the line. Make sure to know these five simple ways to grow your retirement savings and your future self will be grateful. 

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