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5 Smart Moves For Millennials To Boost Retirement Savings

5 Smart Moves For Millennials To Boost Retirement Savings

Retirement might not be coming your way for quite some time, but if you haven’t started planning for it yet, it’s possible that you’re already a bit behind. As the outlook on retirement looks dimmer and dimmer for our generation, the need to contribute early and often to a retirement savings fund becomes all the more important. Fortunately, there are several ways you can boost your savings now to build your funds faster and secure a more stable future for yourself in your older age.

Here are six smart moves you should be making now to boost your chances of building a sufficient fund for the future.

1. Automate Your Savings

Americans are notorious for neglecting the importance of building a savings account. Nearly seven out of ten Americans have less than $1000 in a savings account. One of the best ways to make sure you’re actually putting money away instead of spending it is to automate regular contributions to your savings accounts. Of course, you’ll want to automate your retirement savings so that a small amount comes out each month, but you’ll want to contribute to a personal savings account as well.

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Set up an automatic funds transfer between your checking and your savings account. Set an amount that is large enough to build funds over time, but small enough that it doesn’t break your bank each month. For your retirement savings, check with your employer to see if the company offers an automatic payroll deduction that contributes to your 401(k).

2. Take Advantage of 401(k) Matching

While you’re discussing your savings options with your employer, be sure to ask if the company offers 401(k) matching. Many companies will offer this to their full-time employees. In its simplest form, 401(k) matching means the company will match a percentage of your monthly contribution to your 401(k) with its own money to help you build funds more quickly.

Not all employers will offer 401(k) matching, but just asking about it can be helpful in putting the idea of implementing a matching program on their radar.

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Before you head in to talk to your employer, it will be helpful to have a little background information on what a matching program entails. Check out this guide for a quick overview of what a typical 401(k) matching program might look like.

3. Refinance Student Loan Debt

Debt from student loans is one of the most common factors affecting the millennial generation’s ability to put money away in a retirement savings account. In fact, about 40 million Americans are currently paying off student loan debt. Although it might seem like you’re stuck with the same monthly installments for the rest of your life, you actually have an option to lower your monthly payments and free up some of your monthly income to put away into your retirement savings account.

Refinancing student loan debt can help you adjust your payments to an amount that makes it easier to have enough money to save each month. The process can even help you identify ways to lower interest rates where possible.

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If you have any type of loan out, chances are you’ve received a letter from at least one company offering to help you refinance your debt. What you should know is that not all companies are equal in terms of their abilities to provide a trusted refinancing service. If you’re a bit new to the idea of refinancing, check out this guide to learn a little more about some of the top companies for refinancing student loan debt.

4. Cut the Cord on Cable

The average cable bill is around $99 a month. When you add on your internet connection, this will likely be an additional $20 to $45 per month for a standard connection. Add this up, and the amount you spend each month for entertainment gets pretty high! If you have a monthly cable subscription and are constantly wondering where your money went at the end of each month, this is likely one of the major culprits contributing to your lack of funds. This is why the trend of cutting the cord on cable is growing among the millennial generation.

Although most of us aren’t quite ready to cut the cord on internet, many of us are willing to nix cable and sacrifice the ability to binge watch marathons on our favorite channels to save about 100 bucks a month. You can sign up for a monthly streaming subscription like Hulu or Netflix for around $15 a month to replace cable and save big on your monthly expenses. All you need is a streaming device like Chromecast or Apple TV to stream content from your computer to your television.

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Cutting the cord will help you save quite a bit of money each month that will be put to better use in your retirement savings account.

5. Stick to the Same Car for Awhile

We all love the idea of cruising around in a beautiful new car, but what we often don’t realize is that we’re throwing a lot of money down the drain when we insist on swapping out cars every couple years or so.

Experts say that when an individual is able to stick to a plan of keeping a car for at least 10 years, they purchase half as many cars in their lifetime. This means you could save a huge amount of your money and be better set for retirement if you commit to owning a car for awhile before you look into a newer option. Not to mention, after the course of a three to five year loan, you’ll have at least another five years of debt-free ownership of your car if you keep it around for at least 10 years. This means more money in your monthly budget to put toward saving for retirement.

So there you have it, five smart ways you can save money now to boost your retirement savings and prepare for a comfortable lifestyle in the future. Hopefully these tips will help you establish a few healthy saving habits to build an effective retirement savings account. If you have any questions or perhaps a tip you’d like to add for other readers, comment below!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via static.pexels.com

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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