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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 September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal 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. 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 to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

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

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal 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’s for. It could be anything, including your child’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 that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals 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 beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as 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.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

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

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a 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.

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

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-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.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, 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 spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

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

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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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 manage all the expenses from the rest.

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

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

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. 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 counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

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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5. 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.

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

6. Maintain a Journal

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

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.

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

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s 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.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

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[2].

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 compared to equity instruments.

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3. 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.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

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

    4. 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 and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    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

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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