Though Social Security will provide some income for eligible seniors, the majority of workers won't manage to live off those benefits alone. Rather, they'll need to save independently to ensure that they have enough income available in retirement. If your goal is to amass enough savings for a financially secure future, then it pays to increase your 457 plan contributions over time.
A 457 plan is similar to a 401(k), only it's specifically designed for government workers, as well as certain employees of non-profit organizations. The current annual contribution limits for a 457 are $18,000 if you're under 50, or $24,000 if you're 50 and over. While not everyone can max out these limits, increasing your contributions over time can help you not only build a solid nest egg, but also capitalize on whatever match your employer offers. Here are a few ways you can go about ramping up your contributions.
1. Always save your raise
The average U.S. worker gets a 3% raise each year. Now, you may be inclined to use that money to get a better apartment, or upgrade your cellphone or cable plan, but if you're willing to pretend it doesn't exist by sending it all directly to your 457, you'll be a lot happier for it when retirement comes. Best of all, if you never get your hands on your newfound cash in the first place, you won't miss it at all.
2. Bank your bonus cash
Not everyone is eligible for a performance bonus at work, but that doesn't mean you won't get your hands on other forms of unexpected cash during the year. Most taxpayers, for example, wind up getting refunds from the IRS, many of which are substantial. Any time you get money outside of your regular paycheck, you should send it right over to your 457.
3. Revisit your budget
You might think there's no wiggle room in your budget for additional savings, but you'd be amazed at what a few small changes might allow you to do. Rather than assume you have no cash to spare, examine your budget and find ways to cut corners. This could mean walking to work a few times a week in lieu of the bus, packing lunch several times a week instead of buying it from your local deli, or skipping your weekly trip to the movie theater and hosting a DVD night at home, instead. Even if you manage to free up only $50 a month by making minor changes, you'll have an extra $600 in your 457 over the course of a year.
4. Consider changing your lifestyle
If the small changes you make in your budget don't amount to much, think about instituting one major change, like moving to a smaller apartment, to free up extra cash to contribute. Doing this for even a few years will give you a real opportunity to pad your long-term savings.
5. Think about a second job
Ideally, your primary job will offer enough flexibility to make sizable 457 plan contributions. But if you're still finding that there's not much spare cash to go around, you may want to consider doing some extra work on the side, and using your additional earnings to add to your savings. You might try your hand at consulting independently in your current field -- provided that's OK with your employer -- or embarking on a side venture you've always wanted to start.
6. Give your debt payments a new home
A large number of Americans carry debt. But whether it's student loans, a nagging car payment, or an outstanding credit card balance, the moment you find yourself debt-free, you should take whatever amount you were paying toward your former debt and use it to fund your 457.
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