Saving for retirement is one of the most important things to do with your money. Unfortunately, most Americans are simply not doing a very good job saving. In fact, according to a recent Northwestern Mutual survey, more than one in five Americans have less than $5,000 set aside for retirement, and 15% have nothing saved for retirement at all. It's not just young people with too little savings, either. In fact, 17% of Baby Boomers don't even have $5,000 earmarked for retirement even as 10,000 Boomers turn 65 every single day.
Saving for retirement is an imperative because Social Security pays far too little to support you as a senior. Unfortunately, most Americans have lots of excuses for not putting aside the recommended 10% or more of income for retirement. While some of the reasons for not saving may indeed seem valid, that won't help you when you're a broke senior -- so it's important to overcome the things that are holding you back from saving enough.
How can you do that? Let's take a look at some common reasons people don't save for retirement -- along with some ways to overcome these obstacles so you can invest in your future.
You don't make enough money
If you truly make too little money to meet basic living expenses today, setting aside cash for retirement is going to be impossible. In this situation, it's important to determine if you actually make too little or if your expenses are too high.
To do this, make a list of essential expenses such as food, transportation, insurance, basic clothing, housing, utilities, and day care costs. If essential expenses exceed your income, consider whether it's possible to cut them by moving to a cheaper place, getting a less expensive vehicle, getting a roommate, or cutting your grocery budget by using coupons and cooking at home more instead of buying prepared foods.
If you're really living on a bare-bones budget already, increasing your income is the only option to start saving for retirement. This could mean taking on a side gig and earmarking the money from it for retirement savings. Or it could mean asking for a raise or working to improve your skills to get a better job.
You have too many other things to spend your money on
When you make a detailed budget that lists essential expenses, chances are good you'll find it's not your income that's too low, but your spending that's too high. In fact, having too many pressing needs to fulfill is another common excuse for not saving for retirement. But the reality is that you can't afford not to save. After all, it will be a lot harder to be broke at 70 when you need to pay for essential medical care than to deal with a budget shortfall now that's caused by excess spending.
To make sure your expenditures aren't adversely affecting your retirement savings, track all your expenditures for around 30 days. This will help you identify areas where you can cut back. You can create a detailed budget that prioritizes retirement investing while limiting how much of your hard-earned cash goes to other things such as dining out and entertainment.
You don't have a retirement plan at work
If you don't have access to a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work, the logistics of saving for retirement seem much harder. The reality, though, is that it's easy to open an IRA and get tax breaks for retirement savings. You can open one with virtually any discount online brokerage firm in a matter of minutes by filling out an online application.
Once you've opened a retirement account, set up automatic contributions from your bank account to your IRA on payday. You can usually do this through either your broker or your bank by simply setting up an automated withdrawal or an automated transfer. This will put your retirement savings on autopilot in much the same way that people make automatic contributions to a workplace 401(k) by having deductions withdrawn from their paychecks.
You don't know how to invest for retirement
Putting your money into a 401(k) or IRA is just the first step -- you also need to invest your dollars in assets that produce a return. Many people think investing is complicated or scary and are reluctant to put retirement funds into the market for fear of losses. If this is holding you back, you need to overcome your worries, because earning a reasonable return on your money is important to end up with a large enough retirement nest egg.
Investing is easy even without knowing much about stocks if you simply pick a few exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track the performance of different kinds of assets. Our model portfolios can help you get started. You could also invest with a robo-advisor, which picks investments for you after you answer a few simple questions -- although there's a fee for doing so, and most people don't need to pay when investing in ETFs is so simple and straightforward.
Don't let these excuses hold you back
It can be frustrating to feel you don't have enough money to save for retirement. But you can find ways to overcome common problems that prevent investing for your future. By following these tips, hopefully you can increase your retirement savings so you don't end up with a major shortfall when you hit your senior years and are ready to leave the workforce for good.