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15 Ways to Step Up Your Retirement Savings

Author: Christy Bieber | January 23, 2021

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There's never been a better time to save more for retirement

Retirement should be a time of life you look forward to, but many current workers are concerned about what their future holds. Specifically, workers fear they won't be financially ready for retirement -- and they may be right.

The good news is, it's not too late to boost your retirement savings and your financial security in your later years. And the sooner you get started, the bigger the impact your efforts will have.

Therefore, you should make as many of these 15 moves as you can ASAP so you can supercharge your savings and give yourself the best chance at a worry-free life in your later years.

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1. Set retirement savings goals (and track your progress)

It's a lot easier to accomplish financial goals -- like increasing your retirement savings -- if you actually have a specific, measurable objective you're working toward.

So if you don't already know how much you need to invest for retirement, your first step to increasing your savings is to figure that out. You can estimate the total amount you'll need by multiplying your expected final salary times 10, then using a calculator to break that down into a monthly investment goal.

Once you've got your goal in place, start tracking your progress. As you see your account balance grow, you should stay motivated to keep sacrificing now for more security later.

ALSO READ: 3 Common Retirement Regrets, and What to Do About Them

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2. Take full advantage of your employer match

Getting your employer to help you save for retirement is one of the quickest and easiest ways to step up your savings with minimal effort on your part.

You can do that by finding out what your employer's 401(k) matching rules are and making sure you contribute enough to earn the full amount of your employer match.

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3. Claim the Saver's Credit

Did you know the government also wants to give you free money to save for retirement? Specifically, Uncle Sam is offering up to $2,000 for married joint filers and $1,000 for single filers who save in retirement accounts.

This money comes in the form of the Saver's Credit, which provides up to a 50% tax credit on your first $2,000 per person (or $4,000 per couple) in retirement account contributions.

The specific amount of your credit, and your eligibility for it, depends on your income. But if you qualify for even a small Saver's Credit, you don't want to leave this free money unclaimed.

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4. Use tax deductions to your benefit

While eligibility for the Saver's Credit is restricted to low- and middle-income Americans, most people can save on their taxes by claiming deductions for retirement account contributions.

Traditional 401(k)s and IRAs, as well as health savings accounts (HSAs), are three of the primary types of accounts you can contribute to with pre-tax dollars. The deductions you can claim for contributions to them are valuable and could net you thousands of dollars in government subsidies to save for your future.

Don't pass up this money -- contribute as much as you can, up to the annual maximum limits for each tax-advantaged account.

ALSO READ: This Common Retirement Planning Rule Could Leave You Broke

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5. Take full advantage of catch-up contributions

Your retirement savings should increase with age. Fortunately, the IRS recognizes this and has provided an option to make larger deductible contributions to 401(k), IRA, and HSA accounts as you get older.

The additional deductible amount is called a "catch-up" contribution. While the amount of catch-up contributions varies by account type and changes periodically over time, you're allowed to invest thousands more each year once you're old enough to be eligible.

As you get closer to retirement, make it a goal to max out your contributions -- including catch-up contributions -- and you'll be setting yourself up to have a hefty retirement nest egg.

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6. Consider accounts beyond your 401(k)

Investing in a 401(k) is easy, but sticking only to this workplace account may not be the best move if you're trying to step up your retirement savings. Other accounts, such as HSAs and IRAs, come with benefits 401(k)s don't offer.

An IRA, for example, can give you much more flexibility regarding what you invest in. And when you use an HSA, you can make pre-tax contributions, grow the money without paying taxes, and make tax-free withdrawals as long as you're using the money for covered medical expenses.

An HSA is the only account that provides this triple tax benefit. And, if you don't end up needing to pay for covered medical care, you can still withdraw funds for any purpose as a senior over 65 and will just have to pay taxes at your ordinary rate.

While you need to meet eligibility rules to make deductible contributions to IRAs and HSAs, it's worth looking into them.

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7. Bank your raises

There's another effortless way to increase your savings without changing your lifestyle.

Anytime you get a raise, just use that extra money to increase the contributions you're making to your retirement accounts. And do it before you ever get a single higher paycheck.

If you divert your raise to retirement savings immediately, you'll never get used to having that money. You can keep your current budget exactly the same, all while getting richer by investing your extra money for your future.

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8. Set up automatic 401(k) increases

Sometimes it's hard to make the smart financial choice. But you can take this decision out of your hands by setting up automatic increases to your 401(k) contributions.

Some plans allow you to set up your 401(k) contributions so the amount you are investing goes up over time. If yours does, consider building slow but steady increases into your plans.

Once you've signed up and committed your future self to saving more, chances are good you'll just stick with the status quo once the increased contributions start coming out of your checks.

ALSO READ: Could This Be the Key to Increasing Retirement Savings?

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9. Pay yourself first when making your budget

Retirement account contributions should be a key part of your budget. In fact, you should treat yourself as a creditor to whom you must make a payment every month, just like your mortgage lender, landlord, or credit card company.

By prioritizing payments you make to yourself and treating them with the importance of payments you make to others, you can ensure that you aren't trying to build a retirement nest egg on the scraps of cash left over after everything else is done for the month.

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10. Redirect funds from unnecessary expenses

Chances are there are some things you're spending money on right now that aren't really bringing you joy or enhancing your life enough for the expenditures to be worth it.

You need to find where you're frittering your money away and redirect it to savings. You can do this by tracking your spending, taking a careful look at where your dollars are going, and reallocating them in your budget.

Once you've found an expense to eliminate -- such as a monthly gym membership -- increase your retirement account contributions based on the money you're saving. For example, if you'll no longer be sending your gym $49.99 a month, set up an additional $49.99 monthly contribution to your IRA.

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We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

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11. Automate your retirement account contributions

If you've prioritized retirement contributions in your budget, you should know how much you can afford to invest for your future each month. But don't make yourself manually transfer that money over -- otherwise, it'll be too tempting to do something else with it that seems more fun in the moment.

To make sure you don't fall short on a contribution goal you've set for yourself, arrange to have the necessary amount automatically deposited in your 401(k) or transferred over to your IRA immediately upon receiving your paycheck.

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12. Invest windfalls

If you come into some money that's not part of your regular income -- whether it's a tax refund or a gift or cash from some other source -- you should treat that windfall as an opportunity to invest.

While these periodic investments aren't going to replace the slow and steady contributions that help you build wealth over time, they can give your account a much-needed boost.

ALSO READ: Got $1,000 to Invest? 3 Stocks That Will Make You Richer in 2021

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13. Invest money you save

When you use a coupon for a purchase you had to make anyway or you get a lower price on something than you budgeted for, treat that as a small windfall. Invest it right away so it can help make your investment account a little bigger.

If you get a $10 coupon from the grocery store, for example, so you come in below your weekly budget, transfer that $10 to your IRA as soon as you get home from shopping. That way, the savings won't just be spent on something else -- it can start working for you and earning interest that will help you achieve the financial security you deserve.

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14. Consider a side gig

For some people, there's simply not enough money left over after covering the basics to save much for retirement. If that's the case for you, you still need to find ways to step up your savings if you aren't doing enough. After all, retirement is going to come eventually, and you need to be financially prepared for it.

One of your best options in these circumstances is to look for a side job. Working even a few hours a week could allow you to bring in enough extra money that you can invest it and grow it over time to provide for you as a retiree.

5 Winning Stocks Under $49
We hear it over and over from investors, “I wish I had bought Amazon or Netflix when they were first recommended by the Motley Fool. I’d be sitting on a gold mine!” And it’s true. And while Amazon and Netflix have had a good run, we think these 5 other stocks are screaming buys. And you can buy them now for less than $49 a share! Simply click here to learn how to get your copy of “5 Growth Stocks Under $49” for FREE for a limited time only.

Previous

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15. Make smart investments

Finally, you can step up your retirement savings by making sure your invested money is earning as much as it can. You can do this by investing in an appropriate mix of assets given your age and risk tolerance.

ALSO READ: Where to Invest $100,000 Right Now

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Your future self will thank you if you follow these 15 steps

The last thing you want is to spend your golden years worrying about money. Instead, take the time now to implement as many of these 15 techniques as you can to step up your retirement savings. You'll be very glad you made the effort now when you can enjoy your life later as a retiree.

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