The new year has arrived and soon the enthusiasm we all feel with the blush of the new year will start to wane. With it will go all the goals and resolutions that we're setting, unless we decide to actually put plans in place to start making a change.
So what are some of the most popular resolutions that people make every year? Among the top resolutions are losing weight, getting out of debt and getting organized. If you're already out of debt, and your waistline is fit and trim, it may be time to get your financial life organized!
One thing that often happens when people are finally able to dig their way out of debt is that they end up losing steam and motivation, and they don't channel their debt reduction mojo into a new goal – like saving for the future.
Set A Goal To Start Saving For Retirement
So with the start of the new year, and with the motivation and good feelings that it brings, why not make this the year you started on a new goal of saving for your retirement?
Saving for retirement is one of those things that's easy to put off. We all have other priorities that seem to creep up on us, and saving for retirement can seem like it's something we can put off – after all, retirement is so far in the future, right?
The problem is, if you keep putting it off, you're not very likely to get around to it until a lot of valuable time, and compound interest, is lost in the process.
Set A Goal
Before your motivation to turn things around starts to disappear, it's time to set a goal.
- Step 1: Figure out how much you want to save for retirement: For most people they'll need to figure out what kind of lifestyle they want to live at retirement, and how much money they'll need to maintain that lifestyle. They'll also want to think about how their health will be in old age, and think about other things that may affect how much money they need. Here's a retirement calculator to help you with this step.
- Step 2: Figure out how much you'll need to save every month to reach that goal: Let's assume you settled on a 1 million dollar retirement goal in step 1. Assuming an 8% return, if you're age 25, you'll need to save $286 to reach that million dollar goal by age 65. Age 35? $671/month. 45? $1698/month. As you can see it pays to start saving as early as you can.
Make A Plan
Now that you know how much money you need to save by the time retirement rolls around, and you know how much you need to save every month, it's time to make a plan about how you're going to make it happen.
Contribute To A 401k
If you're like me, setting up a retirement plan that allows you to make automatic contributions is one of the best ways to make sure money actually arrives in your retirement account. If you have a company 401k where you can have money deducted before you even see it, it'll make it even easier because the you'll never see the money and it won't hurt when you have to transfer money every month. The 2015 401k contribution limit is $18,000, so that's a decent amount that can get you on track.
If you aren't able to contribute what you need to retire right away, a lot of plans have an option to slowly ramp up your contributions so that you can work up to a larger contribution over time. So for example, if you wanted to work your way up to a contribution of 10% of your income into your 401k, but can only contribute 5% now – you can have the percentage increase by 1-2% every year until you're putting in the amount you need to.
Open A Roth IRA
If your company 401k doesn't match contributions, or if you don't have a 401k, you may want to consider starting a Roth IRA. I currently have a Roth IRA with a couple of different companies. The companies I currently recommend:
Betterment has some great functionality where it can help you track how you're doing in regards to your retirement goals, and can tell you if you need to invest more, or if you're on track to reach your goal. Betterment allows you to setup automatic contributions to your account so that you can stay on track and not have to worry about investing every month.
Other low cost companies like Vanguard have similar options available to help you get started on low cost automatic investing. To me making things automatic so that they happen without your intervention is key. Better to set it and forget it! The 2015 Roth IRA contribution limits are the same as 2014, and are currently at $5,500 for the year. So set it up this month to max it out for 2015, that'll be just over $450/month.
Just Get Started Saving For Your Future
The important part of saving for retirement is just to get started. Contribute to your 401k, open a traditional or Roth IRA and start investing for the long term. You'll be glad you did!