We are all looking forward to a time when we can relax and enjoy ourselves without worrying about such trivial things as getting up early or finishing a report. Going through different schools and then several jobs throughout our life teaches us to treasure the precious moments we have to ourselves, but sometimes we can focus so much on this cycle of “work hard – play hard” that we lose sight of the bigger picture.
Many of us tend to spend money on vacations, drinking with friends, gadgets and food in an effort to make the most of our free time, and it isn’t until we hit 40 or 50 that we begin to think about our retirement savings, or lack thereof. Even if you have been leading a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle and not really thinking about the future, you can still catch up on your retirement savings with these few simple strategies.
Generate some additional income
It’s easy to get used to a lifestyle of unrestricted spending, but the problem with such a lifestyle is that you’ll have very little money left over each month, money that could have been tucked away in your bank account. A quick fix is to find a way to earn some additional income. Part-time jobs can give that extra bit of cash you need, but you can also use your skills. You may be able to:
- Offer tutoring – you can give lessons to others on anything from music and dancing, to cooking, math or a foreign language. Whatever knowledge and previous experience you have can be put to good use.
- Do some freelance work – people need a lot of different services, ranging from ghostwriting and translating to designing and programming, or even bookkeeping, accounting and legal advice. You can do this online, from the comfort of your own home. Good places to look for such work are websites like Elance and Freelancer.
- Create and sell a variety of items – toys, clothing, jewelry, furniture, paintings and sculptures are just some of the things that you can sell to people if you have some talent and patience. You can end up earning quite a bit this way if you are good.
- Sell some of the stuff that is collecting dust in the attic – there are always a few old items that we barely use up in the attic, down in the cellar, or just littered around the house. Some of these might fetch a good price.
Earning extra money will require you to devote a bit more of your time to work, but you can always try to make some money from the hobbies you enjoy doing anyway.
Cut down on living expenses
If you catch yourself worrying about life in retirement, it means it’s time to try and cut down on some unnecessary expenses as soon as possible. Effective budgeting doesn’t mean going into the woods and living of the land to save every possible penny – it’s just about making smart decisions, prioritizing and learning to do without certain luxuries.
Looking for things that are on sale, buying in bulk, switching to a more cost-effective brand and using your DIY skills are all great money-saving tactics that don’t require you to significantly lower your quality of life. Being careful about how you spend your money means you will have more funds to put aside, which brings us to our next point.
In the US, for people who have hit 50, the best strategy is to put as much money into your 401k as you can. Some company retirement savings plans allow you to put additional funds into your 401k by way of reducing your salary by said amount. You get a bit less money per month, but it goes into your retirement fund and you get a tax deduction. These catch-up contributions can go all the way up to $5,500, which can make a big difference in the long run. Other countries such as Canada and Australia have similar schemes, so check out what is available in your locality.
Consider an IRA rollover
An IRA gives you a greater freedom and because the penalties for early withdrawal are far less than with your typical 401k plan, you have the option of making good use of your money a bit earlier, e.g. in case of emergency or tempting investment opportunity. Experts agree that rolling over your 401k into an IRA is a good option for those who haven’t put much thought into their retirement fund for years and want to catch up quickly. You also have the catch-up contribution option with a maximum of $1,000 on both traditional and Roth IRAs.
Move to a smaller home
If you are in your late forties or early fifties, chances are you’ve sent your kids off to college, and if you live alone there is not a whole lot of need for huge amount of space. Moving into a smaller home in a quiet neighborhood – or perhaps an apartment in the city – and selling your old house can be a good way of infusing your bank account with a large sum of money, as well as drastically cutting costs on maintenance.
There is no need to panic if your retirement fund doesn’t look that good and you’re already pushing 50 – with a bit of strategic planning you can implement money-saving measures, get some additional income on the side and do a number of different things to ensure that you can spend your retirement relatively carefree.
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