If you have a retirement savings plan, your goal should be to increase your contributions from year to year, even if ever so slightly. Doing so will help ensure that you have ample savings for your golden years.
But new data from Bankrate tells us that most Americans aren't saving more in 2019 than they did in 2018. In fact, only 29% have increased their IRA or 401(k) contributions this year, while 46% say their savings rate has held steady. More problematic, however, is the fact that 16% of U.S. adults are saving less for retirement in 2019 than they did in 2018. And 6% didn't save in an IRA or 401(k) in 2018, and so far aren't doing so this year, either.
If your goal is to retire comfortably, you'll need a healthy level of savings to support the lifestyle you want. Social Security will only replace about 40% of your previous income if you were an average earner, and most seniors need double that amount to cover essentials while also having money for leisure and modest luxuries. Therefore, it pays to ramp up your IRA or 401(k) contributions from year to year, and if you've struggled to do so thus far, here are a few tips that'll help.
1. Get on a budget
It's easier to save money when you know where your paycheck goes month after month. Following a budget can help you get a handle on your expenses and carve out savings opportunities where you'd least expect them.
To set up a budget, list your recurring monthly expenses, factor in once-a-year expenses, and compare your total spending to your total earnings. If there's no room to increase your retirement plan contributions at all, review your various expense categories and cut back in areas that won't drastically impact your lifestyle. For example, if you currently spend $100 a month on cable, you might manage to cut that bill in half by playing around with streaming options instead. And that's $50 a month that could go into your IRA or 401(k).
2. Bank your raises
It's one thing to part with money you're used to spending. But any time you get a raise, that's a great opportunity to ramp up on the retirement savings front, since it's extra cash you never had access to before. If you make a habit of sending your raises straight into your IRA or 401(k), you'll boost your savings rate without depriving yourself at all.
3. Get a second job
Some people get a side hustle to pay off debt or snag more spending money. But if you've been having a hard time increasing your retirement savings rate, a second job could be your ticket to higher contributions. In fact, of the millions of Americans who have a side gig, 14% hold one down for the express purpose of funding an IRA or a 401(k). Best of all, you don't need to resign yourself to a side hustle you hate. Rather, you can take a hobby you already spend time on, like crafting, baking, or photography, and turn it into a money-making opportunity.
Even if you're already maxing out your retirement plan contributions, it still pays to plan on increasing your savings over time. The limits for IRAs and 401(k)s can go up from year to year -- in fact, both plan types got a $500 bump from 2018 into 2019 -- so the more you're able to save, the prettier you'll be sitting during your golden years.