Retirement should be a time you look forward to and a time when you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Unfortunately, most U.S. workers today aren't very excited about what their later years hold for them. In fact, according to a recent survey from Willis Tower Watson, 64% of current employees have taken the pessimistic view that their generation will be much worse off in retirement compared with the retirement that their parents are enjoying.
This fear is not unjustified, as many experts project that returns for current and future investors will be below historical averages. At the same time, workers today often have higher student loan balances, more debt, fewer workplace benefits, and less job security than their parents did.
But while workers do face challenges, that's no reason to give up on the idea of a leisurely and enjoyable retirement that's just as good as the golden years employees of the past have enjoyed. You just need to make this dream a reality for yourself. These tips can help.
Know your retirement number
If you don't want to find yourself struggling in retirement, you need to know how much money you need to save to have a good quality of life.
There are a few ways to calculate that, but one of the easiest is to figure out what your final salary will be using your current income and assuming about a 2% raise each year from now until you leave the workforce. Then multiply that final salary number by 10, or by 12 if you plan to live a more lavish lifestyle.
Getting an idea of how much money you actually need will help you to set goals and see if you're on track to hit them.
Step up your savings rate and bank your raises
After you've determined what you need to save to have a big enough retirement nest egg, you can use an online calculator to see if you're on track to save enough at your current savings rate. Chances are, you'll find you need to do more.
The easiest way to increase savings without affecting your lifestyle is to wait until your salary rises. If you get a 2% raise, you'd just increase your automatic 401(k) or IRA deposits by 2% before you ever get a higher paycheck.
This may not get your savings rate up quickly enough, though, as raises don't always come that often. You could also try other techniques to save more. Working a side gig and saving every dollar you earn from it would supercharge your savings, while reworking your budget to find spare cash could also help you increase the amount you put away.
One simple approach is simply to up contributions to your account by 1% periodically. With such a small change, you probably won't miss the money much and can easily adjust your spending to accommodate your reduced take-home pay.
Get serious about a debt pay-off plan
One of the reasons quality of life may be lower for future retirees is that an increasing number of people are getting to the end of their working lives while still owing a lot of money. Debt payments are a big problem, because when you're on a fixed income, you don't want to spend any of your limited funds on paying interest.
To ensure you're debt-free before retirement, set a plan up to make extra payments on what you owe. Get aggressive about paying more than the minimum on a particular loan or credit card you want to pay off first, then move the extra payments to the next debt on your list until all that you owe has been repaid.
Once you've paid off what you owe, try to avoid borrowing again in the future. Having no debt will enable you to save more for retirement and will help your retirement nest egg stretch further.
It's up to you to create the retirement you dream of
If you're one of the majority of Americans who think you won't have a retirement lifestyle as nice as the one your parents are enjoying, you still have time to take action. By taking the right financial steps now, you can set yourself up with the money you need to live a great life in your later years.