Most people know that saving for retirement is an important goal, yet life’s unexpected expenses often get in the way. Regardless of your current income, you can devise a saving strategy to meet nearly any financial situation. By creating a savings plan, you can save more money for retirement and even use your savings to keep your nest egg growing.
If you are still working and haven’t taken advantage of an available 401(k) program, do it now. The contributions come out of your paycheck before taxes are withheld, and the tax-deferred growth means that you won’t pay annual taxes on capital gains and dividends. Many employers also offer matching contributions, such as 50 cents for each dollar you contribute (specifics depend on your employer’s policy).
There are limits to how much money you can contribute to your 401(k), which are imposed by the federal government and possibly by your employer as well. Yet if you are a worker who is aged 50 or older, catch-up provisions outlined in the Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 may let you make higher annual contributions. The downsides to a 401(k) include penalties if you withdraw money before age 59.5 and employer-defined vesting schedules which may say you have to stay at the company for a certain length of time to keep any matching contributions. (Your own contributions are yours, regardless of whether you change jobs).
Even if you already contribute to a 401(k) plan—and particularly if you don’t—you can open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to save more money for retirement. Both traditional and Roth IRAs offer tax breaks while helping you reach your long-term savings goals. A traditional IRA gives tax breaks while the money is going into your savings, while a Roth IRA lets you enjoy tax-free withdrawals later on. There are also differences in penalties and other rules, so you should carefully consider both types of IRA before deciding which is best for your financial needs.
Most IRAs make regular contributions easy by letting you set up automatic transfers from your bank account. There are limits on how much you can contribute annually, but married couples can often each set up their own IRAs, giving them a way to double the amount they can save. If you are self-employed (either full-time or as a part-time second job), you may also be eligible for a special IRA known as a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP-IRA).
The hardest part of long-term saving may be simply remembering to set aside some of your income on a regular basis. By signing up for an employee sponsored 401(k) plan or arranging automatic contributions to an IRA, you can save more money for retirement before you are tempted to spend it elsewhere. Even small contributions will add up over time if you commit to a consistent savings plan.