The average worker estimates they'll need around $2 million to retire comfortably, according to a survey from Charles Schwab. That can be an overwhelming goal, and it's tempting to give up before you even get started.
However, breaking your goal down into more manageable chunks can make it more achievable. Even if you don't have much cash to spare, you can boost your savings by hundreds of dollars in just a matter of weeks -- with next to no effort.
The first step to building a strong nest egg
Every dollar counts when you're saving for retirement, and it's also important to take advantage of all the resources that are available.
If you're enrolled in a 401(k) plan that offers employer matching contributions, that can potentially double your savings. And these contributions can also help you build a healthier retirement fund by the end of the year.
Median earnings in the U.S. are $3,668 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the average 401(k) match is 3.5% of a worker's salary. If you're earning a median salary, that amounts to around $128 per month in employer matching contributions.
By contributing $128 by the end of the year and then earning an additional $128 in matching contributions from your employer, that comes out to $256 in total contributions in just one month. While that may not seem like much right now, it can add up to more than you think over the long run.
Retiring rich with matching contributions
Say, for example, you invested a total of $250 per month for 35 years while earning an 8% annual rate of return on your investments. You would have roughly $529,000 saved in that time period.
While that's an impressive nest egg, keep in mind that most workers see their wages increase the further along they get in their career. The beauty of matching contributions is that your employer matches a percentage of your salary rather than a set dollar amount. That means as your salary increases, so will the amount you receive from your employer.
Depending on how much you're able to contribute on your own, matching contributions could even help you retire a millionaire.
For instance, say you're earning the median salary of $3,668 per month and you're saving 15% of your income, or $550 per month. Your employer matches 3.5% of your salary, adding $128 per month to your savings and bringing your total contributions to $678 per month.
If you were to save $678 per month for 35 years earning an 8% annual return, you'd have just over $1.4 million saved. And again, if your salary -- and your employer match -- continue to increase over time, you could potentially save even more.
The key to a financially secure retirement
You don't have to be rich right now to retire wealthy. However, you do need to save consistently and be strategic about how you save. By finding at least a little cash to set aside in your retirement fund each month and taking advantage of employer contributions, you may be able to save more than you think for retirement.