We all want to retire with enough money to pay our bills and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. But saving for retirement takes work, and it means sacrificing other luxuries along the way.
Here's the good news, though: There are a few simple steps you can take to increase your retirement wealth and put yourself in a better position to withstand financial surprises as a senior. Here are a few super easy ones to start with.
1. Snag your full 401(k) match
Not everyone has access to a 401(k) plan through work, but if you do, and your employer offers a match, taking advantage of it could really boost your savings in a very meaningful way. Imagine your employer matches up to 3% of salary, and you earn $60,000 a year. That means if you put $1,800 into your 401(k) in the course of a year, your employer will do the same. Over 30 years, that's an additional $54,000.
But wait -- there's more. Let's not forget that the money in your 401(k) doesn't just sit there in cash; it gets invested for added growth. Now, let's say your 401(k) delivers an average yearly 7% return. In that case, the $1,800 a year you get from your employer could grow to $170,000 in three decades' time.
2. Invest in stocks
Some people don't invest their retirement savings in stocks because they worry about taking losses they might never recover from. But as long as you're not retiring for at least seven years, you should feel confident loading up on stocks, as that gives you ample time to ride out potential market downturns.
Furthermore, a stock-heavy portfolio will help you grow your wealth efficiently. In the example above, we used a 7% average annual return in our calculations, which is a few percentage points below the stock market's average. But at a 4% return -- which is more likely with conservative investments -- that $1,800 a year would've only grown to $101,000.
If you're worried about hand-picking stocks for your retirement plan, look at index funds instead. They're an easy way to load up on a diverse mix of stocks without having to do a ton of research, and they allow you to capitalize on broad market gains. Also, they charge relatively low fees, so you don't have to worry about them substantially eating away at your returns.
3. Delay Social Security
You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit, based on your personal wage history, once you reach full retirement age. That age is either 66, 67, or 66 and a specific number of months, depending on your year of birth. But you're allowed to delay your benefits past full retirement age, and for each year you do, they'll increase by 8% -- for life. Now this incentive does run out at age 70, but if your full retirement age is 67 and you wait until 70 to sign up for benefits, you'll snag a cool 24% boost. Best of all, you won't incur any investing risk along the way, because that yearly 8% bump is guaranteed.
The more money you retire with, the more you're apt to enjoy your senior years. Use these strategies to retire wealthier without having to so much as break a sweat.