With retirement becoming more expensive, workers will need to save more than ever to make ends meet.

The average worker expects to need around $1.7 million to retire comfortably, according to a 2022 survey from Charles Schwab. Yet according to a separate report from Vanguard, the average 401(k) balance among workers is roughly $142,000.

Fortunately, it's simpler than you may think to boost your savings while barely lifting a finger. Here's how.

Person looking at a laptop and smiling.

Image source: Getty Images.

Maximizing your savings

One of the easiest and most effective ways to build a robust retirement fund is to take advantage of compound earnings.

With compound earnings, you'll earn returns not just on the initial amount you invest, but on your entire account balance. The more you invest, the more your retirement fund will grow, and the more you'll earn.

While that may sound confusing, the bottom line is that to save as much as possible, it's critical to invest consistently for as many years as possible.

Compound earnings in action

Consistency is key to growing your savings, and compound earnings can make it easier to save ten times more with little to no effort.

Say, for example, you invest $1,000, and you're earning a modest 8% average annual rate of return on your investments. By simply leaving your money alone, you'd accumulate around $10,000 after 30 years -- assuming you don't make any additional contributions.

To maximize your savings, you can continue to invest a little each month. Say, for example, that in addition to your initial $1,000 investment, you also invest $200 per month. Here's approximately how much you could earn over time, assuming you're still earning an 8% average annual return.

Number of Years Total Savings
10 $37,000
20 $114,000
30 $282,000
40 $643,000

Source: Author's calculations via Investor.gov

Taking advantage of compound earnings requires next to no effort from you, because all you need to do is invest consistently and then leave your money alone for as many years as possible. From there, your investments do all the heavy lifting for you.

Saving more for retirement

The more you're able to contribute to your retirement fund each month, the more you'll accumulate over time. But that's not always easy, especially in this economic climate.

The beauty of compound earnings, though, is that you don't need to invest a lot to see significant returns over time. Even if you were to invest just $20 per month, you'd accumulate more than $27,000 over 30 years, assuming an 8% average annual return.

If money is tight and you can't afford to invest right now, that's OK. But if you have even a few dollars to spare, no amount is too small to get started. Time is your most valuable resource when it comes to saving for retirement, so it's better to save a little now than put it off.

Saving for retirement is challenging, but compound earnings can make it a little easier. By investing what you can afford each month and giving your money as much time as possible to grow, you'll be well on your way to building a healthy retirement nest egg.