10 Painless Ways to Boost Retirement Savings

retirement-savingsGood intentions are always important, but action is what makes them truly meaningful. Most people intend to save for retirement, but they sometimes fall short on the follow-through. According to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey, two-thirds of workers say they are behind schedule when it comes to planning and saving for retirement.*

Last-Minute Retirement Savings Plan

One reason that Americans may feel behind in their retirement planning is more immediate financial concerns. Asked to name their most pressing financial issues, the most frequent response among workers responding to the survey was job uncertainty (42%). Others included making ends meet (10% of workers) and the economy (9%).

If you want to bring your good retirement planning intentions to fruition despite the hurdles you face, you might need to get creative in looking for ways to boost your savings. Here are 10 ideas to get you started. Try some of these for a few months – plus some of your own invention – to see how much more you could afford to contribute to your employer-sponsored retirement plan each month.

Think “Wacky”

  1. Return DVDs or videos on time and pay the late fee to yourself.
  2. Did you just pay off a loan or credit card? Continue making the payments, but send them to yourself. 
  3. If you own a washer and dryer, put the quarters you would have spent at the Laundromat in a jar for yourself.
  4. When you tip the wait staff at a restaurant, “tip” yourself the same amount.
  5. Have your kids play video games at home and set aside the amount you might have spent at the arcade.
  6. Buy gently used clothing, sports gear, CDs or musical instruments and keep the price difference between that and “new.”
  7. Cancel premium cable channels and watch the cash pile up instead.
  8. Call yourself richer when you tell the phone company to drop all the “extras.”
  9. “Buy” (and pack up) lunch from your kitchen at home as if it was a deli. Instead of forking over dough to a cashier, keep it for yourself.
  10. As your kids outgrow the need for a baby-sitter, pay the sitter’s wages to yourself when you go out.

Crazy Like a Fox

You may think that the amounts you can save with these tips are piddling, especially compared to the cost of retirement. You’d be right; but don’t discount the power of compounding. It can make trifles grow to sizable sums over time. An extra $100 per month earning a 7% annual rate of return in a tax-deferred account over 25 years amounts to an extra $81,490 at retirement.** And only $30,000 of that is your contributions; the rest is earnings. So think small to realize big dreams, and see your plan administrator for information about how to boost your contributions.

* Source: “2012 Retirement Confidence Survey” from the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates Inc.

** Rate of return is for illustration only; it does not represent the return of any actual investment. Your returns will vary. Withdrawals in retirement will be taxed as ordinary income. Withdrawals made before age 59 1/2 (age 55 upon separation from service) may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty, as well (does not apply to 457 plans).

Photo courtesy of afterfiftyliving.com