We hear a lot about how far behind Americans are in saving for retirement, but we don’t often hear many solutions the average family can actually afford. That’s how we landed on a $300 a month figure. It’s a challenging number, since few of us can find an extra $300 a month without effort and sacrifice. But it’s doable, and it’s enough to make a real difference in your nest egg by retirement.
1. Deal with Realities, and Control Your Emotions
Many people are debating whether they’ll ever be able to squeeze anything out of their budgets for retirement savings. We get it. One of the main reasons people hesitate to save for retirement is they focus on meeting day-to-day obligations.
Christina is a mom of five kids in Alexandria, Va. Two of her children have special needs, so she knows what it’s like to be wary of “spending” money on retirement savings. “It’s been hard to save for retirement, because I always feel like I need more money in the bank since we don’t know what’s coming with the kids,” she said.
“But I know that if we don’t save now, we won’t be able to take care of ourselves in the future, let alone them, if they need it,” Christina added. As a result, she and her husband made retirement savings their priority. They’re debt-free, have an emergency fund, and watch expenses like a hawk. They’ve also come to the tough, but correct, decision to save for their retirement instead of building a college fund for their children.
“We feel that the best gift we can give our children is a strong work ethic, good money sense, and not having to care for us when we get old,” she said.
2. Refine Your Budget and Work Toward Your Goal Over Time
Making up your mind to put retirement savings at the top of your to-do list is just the first step. Now you actually have to find the money. Dave Ramsey, along with many retirement experts, recommends you invest 15 percent of your income for retirement. That sounds like a huge chunk of cash, especially if your budget is so tight it squeaks.
When Katie quit work to stay home with her kids, her family in Mason City, Ill., had to learn to live on one income. After such a drastic cut, they had to face the fact they could not afford to put away 15 percent of her husband’s income for retirement. However, they didn’t stop investing just because they couldn’t reach the 15 percent goal.
“We were just doing as much as we could,” Katie explained. “However, each month we were able to tweak the budget a little more—stuff like changing his W-4 and our cell phone package. Now, we can afford 15 percent for retirement, contribute to college funds, and increase our fun money!”
Judy from Spring Branch, Texas, started her retirement savings plan nearly 20 years ago by contributing just 3 percent of her salary. Then, each year she received a bonus, she diverted most of it to her 401(k), and every time she received a raise, she put a third of that into her 401(k), as well.
“It did not take long to max out my 401(k),” Judy said. “At age 51, my husband and I have two kids in college with the costs completely funded. We are at the point of severe wealth building, and our giving has increased significantly. It’s a great feeling to know that I could retire at age 60 if I choose.”
3. Let Go of Past Regrets
This is where many people get stuck. They see saving for retirement as a mountain too large to climb after a certain point in their lives. They give up before they even begin.
If the prospect of building a nest egg at the eleventh hour is overwhelming, go back to the first step and separate your realities from your emotions. One of the best ways to do that is to get all the facts. Where do you really stand now, and where could you be if you started saving with gazelle intensity?
*Used with permission from Ramsey Solutions. For more information, visit www.daveramsey.com.
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