Saving for retirement is seen as the ultimate personal finance goal -- and it should be. Even if you're in your 20s or 30s, you won't be working forever (or at least you hope so).
However, for many people, it's difficult finding extra money in every paycheck to save.
"One very large issue to deal with is breaking the cycle of unwise financial decisions and helping low-income individuals adopt a horizon long enough to believe that saving for retirement is worthwhile," notes R. Joseph Ritter Jr., CFP at Zacchaeus Financial Counseling. "This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing financial professionals who deal with low-income households and one of the biggest reasons more people are not saving."
Often, people in their 20s and 30s have relatively low incomes simply because their prime income-earning years still lie ahead of them. These folks are best served by simple, manageable savings strategies. For example, a 28-year-old might have student debt, a credit card or two they used to get by in college, and a $48,000-per-year income. Says Dennis M. Breier, president of Fairwater Wealth Management:
This 28-year-old probably feels like he or she has no money and can never save. But, if you ask them to find $40 a week in their budget to save, guess what? They can find it, and they can save it. All of sudden, after a few years, they have a decent little retirement account built up.
Breier's takeaway is that if a young person wants to implement low-income retirement strategies, the habit of saving -- plus compounding interest -- generally carries through for the rest of his or her life. "Even if their income remains low, they have learned how to regularly save," he says.
The good news is that saving for retirement on a lower income isn't impossible; it just takes some solid planning. Whether you make $35,000 per year or $135,000 per year, you must be willing to make sacrifices now for security in the future. Without the desire to save, even the wealthiest people can find themselves unprepared for retirement.
Regardless of your income level, here are four tips to help you reach the retirement of your dreams.
1. Recognize that there is no "one size fits all" retirement plan
Because no two lives are the same, it's important to realize that there is no golden retirement strategy that will meet everyone's needs. You need to assess your income, spending habits, and overall budget to make sure you are coming up with a plan that you can manage. "This is why it's important to work closely with a financial professional to develop a personalized plan that fits your circumstances and needs," says Elle Kaplan, CEO of LexION Capital Management.
2. Open a Roth IRA or traditional IRA
Holly Wolf, chief marketing officer of Conestoga Bank, recommends that if you want to incorporate low-income retirement strategies, deposit money into your Roth IRA or traditional IRA account using any of these techniques:
- Review your take-home pay. "If your take home pay is $314.27, take the first number, $3, and the change, $0.27, and deposit that in an IRA ($3.27)," says Wold. "It's a small amount each pay, but it's a start."
- Don't pay with change. Take all the change you get, save it, and then deposit that into your IRA.
- Put at least 10% of your IRS refund check into your retirement account -- and add more if you can afford it.
- Take half of your birthday, holiday, or anniversary money gifts and put them into your retirement account.
- Never touch the money once you put it in the account. "It's better to put less money in an account and not touch it than to put money in and take it out," advises Wolf. If you're under 59-1/2, not only will you pay taxes on the amount you take out, but you will also pay a penalty.
3. Try using the 20-30-50 plan
The 20-30-50 plan can help you develop a road map and make sure you have everything you need to get started and grow your wealth. This strategy means that 20% of each paycheck goes into investing or saving, 30% is for leisure and general spending, and 50% goes toward bills and necessities such as rent, student loan payments, utilities, and groceries.
To make things easier, set up an automatic 20% transfer from your paycheck to your savings account. The point is, if you don't see it, you won't be tempted to spend it. Think of your savings (after you've built an emergency fund) just like any other bill -- a percentage goes directly to your retirement account.
4. Assess your long-term goals
This applies whether you have a small income or a multimillion-dollar income. At what age do you want to retire? What do you hope your life in retirement will look like? What are your legacy goals? You need to plan for your expected future needs and build room for unanticipated expenses. "You would never just hop into your car without a clear idea of how to get to your destination," notes Kaplan. "The key to a secure and happy retirement is to have a detailed road map that will help you navigate the terrain and get you where you want to go."
Retirement is possible given any income level. As with most other financial decisions, it takes some careful planning and some sacrifices to achieve your goals.
This article originally appeared on MyBankTracker.
Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.