The start of a new year is a great time to make some resolutions that could change your personal financial picture for the better. One such pledge is to sock away more money for retirement in the coming year -- an especially crucial move for folks who are currently behind on savings. Here are five ways to make that happen.
1. Bank your raise
If you were lucky enough to snag a raise this year, you have a great opportunity to set aside more funds for the future without impacting your day-to-day quality of life. If you take the extra money your raise gives you and stick it directly into your 401(k) or IRA, you'll boost your long-term savings without having to cut back on expenses. And since we're talking about saving money you're not used to getting, it's not cash you'll actually miss.
2. Snag your full 401(k) match
If your company offers a 401(k) match, you have a real opportunity to boost your retirement savings in the coming year -- provided you contribute enough of your own money to snag that match in full. The average employer contribution for a 401(k) plan is currently 5.1% of employee pay, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America, and that's the highest figure it has on record. Since the average American earns $46,641 a year, that translates into $2,379 in free money. Of course, you'll need to consult your specific 401(k) to see what sort of match you're entitled to, but the point is that if you contribute enough to get it, you'll add to your savings easily.
3. Choose low-fee investments
The money in your 401(k) or IRA shouldn't just sit in cash. Rather, you should invest it to grow your savings over time. The way you invest your savings, however, will largely dictate how much you gain in your account. See, all investments come with fees -- fees that can eat away at your returns if you aren't careful -- so the more vigilant you are in minimizing those fees, the more you stand to save. To this end, it often pays to choose passively managed index funds over actively managed mutual funds. With the former, you're not paying for the expertise of a fund manager (or group of fund managers), so you'll generally save money on fees without compromising your investments' performance.
4. Cut one expense from your budget
It's pretty much a no-brainer that if you go on an expense-slashing spree this year, you'll free up loads of cash to contribute to your retirement plan. But in reality, depriving yourself of every luxury you've come to enjoy is no way to live, and it's not a lifestyle you can easily uphold. So rather than do that, take a look at your budget and cut one meaningful expense. It could be the weekly takeout order that costs you $30 more than a similar home-cooked meal, or the cable plan you only watch on occasion. Of course, if you're able to reduce a more substantial expense, like your rent, even better. The key is to make a change that you're able to maintain so that you achieve the goal of saving more for your golden years.
5. Get a side gig
One final way to boost your retirement savings for the year is to earn more money. And if you can't get that extra money from your employer, you can snag it via a second gig. Not only do millions of Americans work a side hustle these days, but of those who do, 14% earn that extra money for the express purpose of funding a retirement plan. So find something you're able to do on top of your primary job and carve out a few hours a week to keep at it. Better yet, find a second gig you genuinely enjoy so that it doesn't even feel much like work.
The more you save for the future today, the more comfortable you'll be in retirement. Follow these tips, and with any luck, your IRA or 401(k) will get a nice boost over the course of the next 12 months.