For all too many of us, saving for retirement is like flossing twice a day and eating leafy green vegetables -- something that probably won't get done if we have to think about it.
When you can spend your money on, say, fancy new electronics gear or dinners out at your favorite eatery, where's the fun in sending your hard-earned moola off to a boring old retirement savings vehicle?
The solution? Well, with all due apologies to Nike, I'd encourage you not to think about saving for retirement and just do it instead. And one of the best ways to "just do it" is to put your retirement savings on autopilot.
Lose control now .
You may already do this at work with your 401(k) contributions, which come directly out of your paycheck before it hits your bank account. That's convenient, of course -- particularly if your company's plan provides a matching incentive.
401(k)s, however, are hardly the only way to auto-invest. Indeed, these days, many fund companies provide incentives of their own -- i.e., lower initial investment minimums if you agree to have a regular sum deducted from your bank account and sent to them each month.
Among other funds, for example, Fidelity reduces the threshold for its market-shellacking Contrafund -- a large-cap growth offering whose top holdings recently included such year-to-date overachievers as Marvell Technology
Systematic savers can also snag quite a deal from the T. Rowe Price fund complex, which lowers the initial investment minimum for many of its funds to just $50, T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth included. Between July 1993 and the close of 2005, this fine fund -- whose year-end portfolio included discounted stalwarts like Microsoft
Even if you don't know exactly where you want to invest your money, check with your bank. Chances are that they'll be happy to move money at regular intervals from your checking into a money market or savings account.
Indeed, you may not even have to have a checking account with the institution where you plunk down your savings. That's the way it works with ING, for example. Sign up for an automatic savings plan, and ING will simply deduct the amount you specify from the account you specify at the interval you specify -- no minimum required. Sweet, no?
You might inquire about other "auto" savings options, too. If you give them the go-ahead, for example, Bank of America will round up your debit card purchases to the next whole dollar amount and move that spare change from your checking into your savings. What's more, with its "One Card," American Express will contribute 1% of your purchase amounts to a high-yield savings account.
.to gain control later.
Savings are the key to retiring well, and making money on those savings is always the best option. Going auto can help you avoid the common pitfalls investors fall into -- spending too much on your daily fast-food intake, those new video game consoles you just have to have, and the like. You can also get some expert help on how to make sure your nest egg is well-padded and stays that way by finding personal finance tips and strategies on the Internet. If you want to take a more structured approach to investing for retirement, I'd encourage you to take a guest pass to the Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service, which comes chock-full of useful savings ideas. The newsletter -- along with its back-issue archives and world-class discussion boards -- is yours to try free for 30 days. If you find that you can't benefit from the service, there's absolutely no obligation to continue.
If, however, you do stick around -- and I have a strong hunch that you will -- don't worry about a thing: The newsletter will arrive, automatically, in both your snail-mail and email boxes each and every month.
Convenient, don't you think?
Microsoft and Home Depot are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Bank of America is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation.
Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service. He doesn't own any of the companies mentioned, but he is a Bank of America customer.The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.