Saving for retirement is one of the most important things you can do with your money. Unfortunately, most Americans don't think they're doing it very well. In fact, according to a recent TD Ameritrade study, the majority of Americans would give themselves a grade of C or lower on their retirement savings.
Sadly, the number of Americans who would give themselves an A is equal to the number who give themselves an F: 12%. And while 30% of Americans say they deserve a grade of B, 31% say they should receive a C and 15% would give themselves just a D.
Overall, these scores are far too low, since performing poorly in saving for retirement could leave you struggling as a senior. Fortunately, if you're still working, your grade isn't final yet. You can make some changes to earn higher marks.
In fact, taking these four steps could be just what you need to feel confident giving yourself an A grade.
1. Figure out your retirement savings goal
Close to 60% of Americans don't know how much money they actually need to save for their later years. If you want to succeed in saving, you need to know your goal.
There are several different ways you can estimate your desired savings target. Those close to retirement can make a budget to see what income they'll need, then subtract projected Social Security benefits to figure out what their savings must provide. If you multiply that amount by 25, you'll get a good idea of the total you should save.
Another option is to estimate what your final salary will be (figure about a 2% raise each year from now until retirement) and then multiply that number by 10.
Whatever approach you take, the key is to set a realistic goal for yourself.
2. Determine what you need to do to achieve it
After you've set a target, use this calculator to see how much you need to save each month. Just input the current amount you have saved and your estimated return on investment to see the monthly amount you'll want to invest.
3. Create a budget that prioritizes savings
The next step is to make a budget that enables you to save the desired amount per month.
Start by treating savings as an essential bill, just like your rent, and then figure out how much you have left for other things.
If you can't make the numbers work, it may be time to cut some big expenses such as downsizing to a less costly car. Or you could get an extra job to bring in enough income to meet your monthly target.
4. Set up automated contributions to your retirement account
Once you've made room in your budget for retirement savings, set up automated contributions so you can be 100% sure you're saving enough.
If you have a 401(k) at work, talk with HR or the account administrator to set up your desired contribution. If you don't have a 401(k), you can set up automatic contributions to an IRA through your bank or brokerage firm.
Once you have your automatic contribution in place, don't change it unless you're increasing it. After you get used to living on your reduced budget and treating your retirement savings as essential, you shouldn't miss the money much. And all those contributions can add up to the account balance you need to enjoy life as a senior.
You deserve to earn an A in your retirement savings
If you underperform when it comes to saving for your future, you could end up struggling for money in your later years. No one wants to get to retirement age and be forced to keep working or dramatically reduce a standard of living. Make sure that doesn't happen by following these tips to join the minority of Americans earning an A on retirement readiness.