Published in: Banks | Feb. 4, 2019

7 Surprising Strategies to Save for Retirement

Photo of Lyle Daly

By: Lyle Daly

Saving more for retirement can be easier said than done. Grow your nest egg more quickly with a handful of surprising strategies that you probably haven’t thought of.

Senior couple standing on beach

Image source: Getty Images

It’s one of the biggest financial issues Americans have -- no matter what age group you look at, nobody is saving enough for retirement.

Being aware you’re not saving enough is important, but the hard part is figuring out how to save more. It’s not like you can just conjure up another $1,000 or $2,000 per month.

You’ve probably heard all the typical advice on saving money already, so let’s think outside the box and consider a few more.

1. Withhold less on your taxes

Too many people get thousands back from the IRS every year and look at it as a nice bonus. In reality, it’s just money they’re getting a year after they earned it.

If you normally get $3,000 back after filing your taxes, that could be an extra $250 per month if you added more withholding allowances. Although it’s the same amount of money in the end, getting your hands on it sooner means you can put it in a retirement account and let it accumulate more compound interest.

2. Look for one area where you can cut monthly spending

Instead of doing a 180 with your spending habits, start by finding one area that you can spend less every month. For example, you could downgrade your cable package, get rid of a subscription service, or take public transportation to work more often.

Why just one area? It’s easier to commit to changes like these when you start small. You probably won’t want to completely alter your lifestyle to save money, but if you start with one adjustment, you can add more as you feel comfortable.

3. Cook more

Eating out can be a big expense, and not just when you go to fancy restaurants. If you’re ordering takeout and buying snacks every day, that will add up, even if none of your meals seem very costly.

There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself on occasion, but you’re throwing money away if you do it all the time. It’s far cheaper to buy your food from the grocery store and prepare it yourself, and gradually doing more of that can really boost your savings. All it takes is a few good meal and snack recipes to get you started.

4. Reconsider your choice of bank

Despite how important a person’s bank is in their everyday life, many consumers don’t put much thought into which bank they use. They stick with the bank they’ve been using for years without looking into other options.

Even though it can be a pain to switch banks, it’s worth checking out the best bank accounts to see if there’s something better out there. You could end up getting rid of pesky fees or, if you use one of the top savings accounts, earning more interest on your money.

5. Get money back on your spending

It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Look over the cash-back credit cards that earn the most back, and then pick one of those to use as your primary payment method. Depending on the card, you could earn 1.5% back on all your expenses or up to 6% back in certain spending categories.

Let’s say you average 2% back and spend $2,500 each month. That’s an extra $50 per month and $600 per year that you can put into your nest egg, and it didn’t take any extra effort on your part to do it.

6. Open a health savings account (HSA)

You probably already know that a 401(k) is an excellent way to save pre-tax income for your retirement. Fewer people understand the benefits of saving for retirement using HSAs.

An HSA is an option if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, and it allows you to contribute pre-tax income that you can later deduct for paying medical expenses. When your money grows, it’s tax-free, and if you use the money in the account for qualified medical expenses, that’s also tax-free.

Once you reach retirement age, you can make tax-free withdrawals for your healthcare costs. You can also withdraw from your HSA for any other expenses you have while only paying income tax on that money.

7. Review every regular expense

People often fail to realize how much they could save on bills if they shopped around instead of resigning themselves to what they’re paying already. Here are a few of the bills you could be overspending on every month:

  • Car insurance
  • Cell phone service
  • Gym memberships

I’m not saying you should go out and get some terrible car insurance you see advertised on daytime TV, but in many cases, you can save money without sacrificing quality. For example, I was able to cut my cell phone bill in half by switching carriers.

Building your retirement

It’s tough to know how much money you’ll need during retirement. The best-case scenario is that you live a long, happy life, but you’ll also need plenty of cash to stay comfortable after you stop working.

Every extra bit of money you save will make a difference, and the advice above can help you save more on a regular basis.

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