We're not all hat and no cattle when it comes to retirement.
A recent Fidelity Research Institute survey found that many of us have taken concrete steps within the last six months to be better prepared for the day we hand the keys to the ranch to the next generation. Among our more popular moves, a quarter of us have reallocated or adjusted the investments in our retirement accounts.
Slightly fewer reported significantly increasing their contributions to a workplace retirement account. We've also looked to professionals and online tools for guidance, opened and funded new retirement accounts, and made some retirement expense calculations.
A lot of us, however, haven't taken those steps. Almost 60% of people surveyed said barriers had prevented them from making moves to improve their retirement planning. Separately, and more ominously, 18% of people said they hadn't even started saving!
Here are the most common reasons that prevented people from saving more for retirement and some ideas to overcome them:
No money left
One-third of people surveyed said they barely had any money left over after paying basic living expenses. It can seem nearly impossible to save for the future when the present is making constant demands. Even if you don't think you have a single penny to save for retirement, you might surprise yourself. Try starting off with a tiny goal. Put just 1% of your income aside each paycheck. If you have a retirement savings plan through work, you might get a matching contribution for this small contribution. Saving even this modest amount starts the right habit and can create a small seed fund that can grow as your income grows.
If you seem to promise yourself every month you'll save money, but you end every month empty-handed, pay yourself first. That is, take money out of your checking account before paying the bills and facing the month's expenses. If you wait around until the end of the month to see what's leftover, it probably will be very little or nothing.
Putting it off
Procrastination bedeviled 28% of respondents who haven't taken steps recently to improve their retirement prospects. Staring at a to-do list that starts with "prepare for retirement" can be a little daunting. You may ask yourself, "What does that term mean? How do I start?" Here's where breaking down the task may help you get some motivation and overcome the inertia of procrastination.
If you're looking for ideas, the Fool has several resources that can give you the help you need. Head to our Retirement Center for some advice; look to the most recent issue of Motley Fool Green Light for a step-by-step tutorial in opening an IRA. Once you've gotten your bearings, sit down and write everything out, and be as detailed as you want. Read this interview with productivity expert David Allen to learn how to tackle the list.
Then, just pick one thing and do it. It doesn't have to be perfect. If the overwhelming responsibility of planning for decades of living off savings is dragging you down, remember that doing something is much better than doing nothing.
Paying for plastic
About 27% of people said any extra money was being used to pay off credit card debt. Credit card debt can disrupt the best laid plans of many savers. Develop a plan to tackle that debt and to avoid it in the future. Visit the Credit Center or look to this free guide to learn how to get out of debt.
Even while you're paying off high-interest credit cards, you might want to consider putting a small sum toward your retirement. You'll be establishing a good savings habit while you get your financial house in order. You might also be able to double your money by taking advantage of any matching contributions from your employer, an offer you won't want to miss. Other Fools have found that it pays to keep filling the retirement accounts even while paying off debt.
Still struggling to get started? Even if you think you've got plenty of time to think about retirement, you never know when you'll hit a bump in the road. Read "When the Best Laid Plans Go Awry" to find out why even the best laid retirement plans must sometimes bend to unforeseen circumstances.
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