To retire comfortably, it's important to save about 15% of your income or more throughout your working life.
Unfortunately, most people fall short. A recent Schwab survey found that more than half of workers contributing to a 401(k) put aside 10% of their income or less. And rather than increasing this amount over time, the majority of workers stuck to their initial contribution.
1. Unexpected expenses
According to the survey, 37% of 401(k) participants identified unexpected expenses, such as surprise repair costs, as a top obstacle interfering with their ability to save for retirement.
While surprise costs do crop up, home, car, and other repairs are inevitable. While you can't anticipate what kinds of unexpected expenses you'll face over the course of the year, you can proactively plan for them.
The best way to make sure these costs don't derail your efforts to save for retirement is to have an emergency fund, as well as a fund for car and home maintenance.
By setting aside a little bit each month to cover unexpected expenses, you won't have to worry about coming up with a lot of cash when something breaks. And an emergency fund with several months of living expenses will ensure you're prepared for any calamity without having to go into debt or cut back on your retirement savings efforts.
2. Credit card debt
Thirty-one percent of survey respondents said paying off credit card debt was their top obstacle when it comes to saving enough for retirement.
High interest rates make credit card debt problematic. If you're only making minimum payments, it can take years to pay down the debt.
One option you have is to refinance your high interest credit card debt into a lower interest fixed-rate loan. This can reduce the cost of repayment by giving you one fixed monthly payment to make, and ensures you have a debt-free date when the repayment term ends. Once you've done this, you can make your loan payments each month while also budgeting for retirement savings.
Another option is to contribute just enough to your 401(k) to get your full employer match, and devote every extra dollar to paying off your credit card debt in a timely fashion. Once you've retired the debt, divert the monthly credit card payment amount to saving for retirement instead.
3. Basic monthly bills
Thirty percent of survey respondents indicated the biggest obstacle to saving for retirement was that they needed their money to cover basic monthly bills.
If this is the case, the first step is to make a budget and see where you can reduce spending. Hopefully, you'll find some areas where you can make cuts and divert more money to retirement accounts.
If you truly can't eliminate anything from your budget and you don't have enough to save for retirement, consider taking drastic steps such as getting rid of a car or switching to a cheaper vehicle, downsizing your home, or taking on a side gig to increase your income. None of this is fun, but it is necessary because you have to save for your future.
Don't let these obstacles derail your financial security
For most people, there are always more demands on our money than there are funds to spare. But it's important to prioritize retirement savings.
The sooner you begin setting aside funds for your golden years, the more likely it is that you'll be able to amass the nest egg you need to have a good quality of life as a senior.