Only 64% of workers in America have anything saved for retirement, according to the 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey -- and a whopping 47% have less than $25,000 saved, per the prior year's survey. Clearly, most of us have a lot more saving to do to avoid spending our last decades stressed out making ends meet.
Saving enough for retirement is easier said than done. There are always many demands on our limited funds. So, here are seven ways you could start saving more money. See how many you can put into practice.
Trick No. 1: Get -- and stay -- out of debt
It's hard to save much money if you're deep in debt, spending thousands of dollars annually on interest. Some debt, such as low-interest rate mortgage debt, isn't so problematic, but high-interest rate debt, such as that from credit cards, can be ruinous to your financial health.
Imagine that you owe $25,000 on your credit cards, as plenty of people do. If you're being charged 20% interest, a typical rate, you'll be forking over $5,000 annually for nothing! Socking away $5,000 annually in a retirement account that averages 8% annual growth would amount to almost a quarter of a million dollars over 20 years -- that's what you're forfeiting if you're mired in debt with no plans to dig yourself out. Getting out of debt isn't always easy, but it can be done, it's very satisfying to do, and it will give your financial health a powerful boost.
Trick No. 2: Automate your savings
This strategy is fairly easy. Your employer may let you have a set amount transferred directly from your paycheck each pay period to a certain bank account or two. You might, for example, have $400 sent to a savings account every pay period, thereby saving roughly $10,000 each year.
Taking advantage of automation with a workplace 401(k) account is also effective. Preset sums will be automatically transferred from your paycheck into your retirement savings account. Many companies automatically enroll you in their 401(k) program, but set your contribution percentage rather low. Increase your contribution so it's a meaningful percentage, between 10% and 15% at the least, and then aim to increase the percentage annually. (Don't assume that 10% is sufficient. For many people, it isn't -- especially their savings are below what they should be.) If your employer offers a match, this strategy will pay off even more.
Be sure to invest that money effectively, too, remembering that long-term dollars are likely to grow fastest in stocks. Consider a low-cost, broad-market index fund such as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI), or Vanguard Total World Stock ETF (VT).
Trick No. 3: Sock away part of all your raises and tax refunds
It's delightful to receive regular raises at work and to get a tax refund check every year from Uncle Sam, but don't waste that money on treats or park it in your bank account, where it can be accidentally spent. Instead, direct those funds straight into your retirement savings.
You may not be able to save every raise for decades, but aim to save as many extra funds as possible. You'll be living below your means and growing financially healthier.
Trick No. 4: Get -- and stay -- healthy
This trick may not seem that related to finances, but it is: Getting healthy, and staying healthy, means you'll probably spend less on healthcare in your life. That can amount to a lot of dollars.
A 65-year-old couple retiring in 2019 will spend, on average, a total of $285,000 out of pocket on healthcare, according to Fidelity. There are no guarantees, but you will be more likely to spend less on healthcare if you take care of yourself.
Trick No. 5: Take on a side gig
That's right -- get another job. It may not sound appealing, but it doesn't have to be terrible. Think about what kinds of things you are good at and what kinds of activities you enjoy. You might make some extra money by driving for a ride-sharing company on some evenings or the weekend, or you might pick up some extra dollars by tutoring, editing, coaching, consulting, walking or boarding pets, gardening, organizing, cooking, catering, or renting out a room in your house via Airbnb.
A good side gig can net you an extra $1,000 or more per month. Even if you just work as a cashier earning $10 per hour for 10 hours per week, that's an extra $5,000 or so per year you can save in your retirement accounts to grow for you.
Trick No. 6: Use rewarding credit cards
If you're a regular credit card user, be sure you're using the kind of card that serves you best. If you're still paying off debt, focus on balance transfer cards or low-interest rate cards. But if you're financially healthy, favor cards that offer rewards and/or cash back.
There are cards that offer anywhere from 1% to 2% back on every purchase, and some that pay up to 5% or 6% back on certain purchases, such as those at supermarkets or certain retailers. If you spend $500 per month at Amazon.com and its subsidiary Whole Foods Market, you can earn 5% back on most purchases there, which saves $250 annually. If you travel a lot, your best bet might be a card that offers travel rewards and discounts.
Don't use this tip if you're struggling with credit card debt or are not disciplined enough to only charge what you can afford on credit cards. If you're in debt, focus on paying off your debt, perhaps with the help of a 0% intro APR card or a balance-transfer card.
Trick No. 7: Make money-saving phone calls
If you spend just an hour or two making phone calls to insurance companies every year or so, you might end up saving hundreds of dollars per year on your home insurance, car insurance, umbrella insurance, renters insurance -- even your health insurance. Each insurer uses different formulas to determine their rates, and at any given time, each offers you a different price for the same coverage. Remember, too, that you can often save more by having two or more policies with the same insurance company.
If you're saddled with high-interest rate credit card debt, call your credit card companies and ask for a lower rate. If you've been a loyal customer, you may well get some relief -- just for asking. Give your cable TV company a call every now and then, too, to see if there's any new promotion that can reduce your monthly bill. There may well be one, especially if you let them know you're considering other providers.
Acting on a few -- or all -- of these money-saving strategies can help supercharge your retirement savings and beef up your financial security. Many of them are relatively painless, too.