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One in three Americans has $0 saved for retirement, found a recent GOBankingRates.com survey. There are various reasons why many Americans haven't made saving for a retirement a priority — "I have too many financial obligations" or "I don't make enough money to start saving" — but none of those reasons should be "because it's too hard."
If you notice that your retirement savings are lagging, take the necessary steps now to get started or catch up. Click through for easy retirement savings tips.
1. Put 15 percent of your salary in savings.
Ideally, you’ll start doing this with your first paycheck. If 15 percent feels like a big number, start small and gradually increase the percentage over time. The more time you have to save, the more time the money has to accumulate and earn compound interest.
2. Get a 401k match from your employer if they offer it.
Think of a 401k match as free money. Just keep in mind that you won’t actually get to keep those contributions until you are fully vested in your employer’s plan.
3. Set up an automatic direct deposit.
The easiest and least painful way to start saving is to put your contributions on autopilot. Check with your employer to see if you can direct deposit a portion of your paycheck into a retirement savings account.
4. Consider investing in a Roth IRA if you’re in a low tax bracket.
A Roth IRA taxes you based on your current tax bracket, but any future withdrawals aren’t taxed as long as you meet certain contributions.
Roth IRAs are smart retirement investment choices for young professionals who are in the beginning stages of their careers with lower salaries. They fall into the lower tax bracket and will not have to pay based on the higher tax bracket they might enter as they advance in their careers.
5. Take advantage of higher IRA contribution limits for older savers.
If you're older and behind on your retirement savings, take advantage of catch-up contributions. People who are 50 years old or over at the end of the calendar year can make additional, or catch-up, contributions to their IRA accounts.
For 2016, the IRA contribution limit is $6,500 for people 50 and over; it's only $5,500 for people who are younger.
6. Conduct an annual audit of your retirement account fees.
Do you know all of the fees associated with your 401k account? A fee increase of just 1 percent to 1.5 percent could amount to thousands of dollars over the course of a couple of years, so do an audit to make sure you're not paying too much in fees.
7. Don’t make early retirement account withdrawals.
Generally, people who withdraw from their IRA before age 59 ½ are subject to a 10 percent tax penalty fee. However, there are a few ways you can avoid withdrawal penalty fees.
8. Rent out your spare room, storage space or garage.
People of all ages can tap into the new sharing economy by renting out space in their homes, extra parking spots or storage in their attics and garages. Airbnb, VRBO and JustPark.com are popular sites that facilitate these services.
9. Delay Social Security payments for as long as possible.
If you wait until your full retirement age, typically around age 66 or 67, you’ll receive 100 percent of your Social Security benefits. If you delay your retirement beyond your full retirement age, your benefits will be increased by a certain percentage until you reach 70.
10. Move to a cheaper location.
Your current city or state might not be one of the most affordable places to live. Do some research to pinpoint the right location that will reduce living expenses and taxes, allowing you to keep more money in your retirement fund.
11. Downsize your life.
Downsizing provides an opportunity to save on housing payments, home maintenance, utility fees, cost of living and taxes. It’s also a great way to trim down what you own and enjoy the simpler things in life.
12. Shop around for better insurance rates.
Do an annual audit of your insurance expenses, and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal available. You might be surprised by how much money you can save by comparing rates.
13. Share a car with your partner or spouse.
Many couples might find they can get around just fine by sharing one car, which cuts down on gas, maintenance and insurance costs. You might be able to forgo car ownership altogether by using ride and car-sharing services.
14. Use senior citizen discounts.
Aside from growing wiser, one of the biggest perks of getting older is taking advantage of senior discounts on everything, including movies, restaurants and entrance to certain events and attractions. Take the money you save with these discounts, and put it in a retirement fund.
15. Consolidate if you have multiple IRAs.
If you’ve got a bunch of IRAs floating around, consider consolidating them into one, easy-to-manage account to save money on costs. For example, you might be able to save money on trading fees and fund expenses.
16. Put every tax refund into savings.
It’s tempting to use the extra money from your tax refund on a new toy or vacation, but these spurts of cash provide the perfect opportunities to give your retirement savings a big boost.
17. Make a weekly meal plan.
Planning weekly meals can keep you from impulsively eating out and overspending at the grocery store, as well as reduce your food waste. There are tons of apps and blogs with meal ideas and planning guides to help you stick with it.
18. Cut the cable cord.
Cable television is no longer an essential utility; it’s an overpriced and unnecessary service. Cut the cord, and put whatever money you save into a retirement savings account.
19. Start looking for a part-time job during retirement.
Many retirees enjoy working part time as a way to increase their income and stay active in the community. Some part-time job ideas include teaching, coaching, real estate, notary services and consulting.
20. Exercise, eat well and take care of yourself.
According to Fidelity’s 2015 Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, a couple that retired last year at age 65 will incur $245,000 in healthcare costs during retirement. Taking care of your health early in life can help cut down on these costs, which means your retirement savings will automatically be higher.
21. See a certified financial planner once a year.
Your money might grow faster — and last longer — if you use a trusted certified financial planner or advisor to help you set goals, stay on track and protect your assets. Many CFPs specialize in retirement planning and work on a fee-only structure, which can reduce the cost of the service.
22. Use your home equity to fund your retirement.
If you’ve built home equity over the years, consider selling your home and using the proceeds as part of your retirement fund. Just remember that your cost of living might be affected if you need to rent a new home or move into a retirement community.
23. Learn to stick to a budget.
Think of a budget as an action plan, not a deprivation plan. It’s not about how much you can afford to spend; it’s about how much you can afford to save.
24. Bring your own lunch to work.
Buying lunch every day could cost you thousands of dollars a year. That’s money that should be going into your retirement fund. Plus, making your own lunch is healthier and takes very little effort.
25. Pay off credit card debt as soon as possible.
Whether you decide to pay off your highest rate first or start with the card with the lowest balance, you should pay off that debt if you want to make any headway on your retirement savings goals.
26. Negotiate better interest rates on your credit cards.
And while you’re paying down that debt, make sure you’re getting the lowest possible rate from your credit card issuer. A simple phone call and negotiating could save you thousands in credit card interest rates this year alone.
27. Use a flexible savings account.
These tax-advantaged accounts let you set aside a portion of your money to cover qualifying, out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This reduces your taxable income, which means you’ll have more money in your pocket to put toward your retirement fund.
28. Open an Individual Development Account.
An Individual Development Account (IDA) can help low-income individuals save toward a specific goal such as home ownership, which can be a key asset during retirement. With an IDA, savings amounts are matched. However, you must meet certain criteria to qualify.
29. Have a garage sale.
Clear out those closets, and get rid of that storage space once and for all. Turn your junk into cash, and learn how good it feels to live with less stuff and more money.
30. Invest your holiday bonus.
If you receive a holiday bonus each year, turn that money into the gift that keeps on giving by putting it right into a retirement account.
31. Start small, and slowly increase your savings rate.
Start with $100 a month, and aim to double it after a year, and the year after that, and the year after that.
32. Be realistic about your returns.
Ignore tall tales of 20 percent returns — it’s completely unrealistic to expect that from your retirement savings. Understand that saving for retirement is about the long haul; the longer you have your money invested, the more likely you will see average returns.
33. Rebalance your investment portfolio.
Once you have accumulated a significant retirement account balance, make sure you have a balance of stocks, bonds and cash that reflects your risk tolerance.
34. Reinvest childcare expenses.
Childcare costs are one of the biggest challenges working parents face. Once your kids have flown the nest, invest that money into your own future.
35. Use a target-date fund.
Pick a target-date retirement fund, which automatically adjusts your mix of assets based on which year you plan on retiring.
36. Set benchmarks for how much you should be saving.
There is a plethora of online calculators to help you determine how much you should be saving to reach your retirement goals. Let them be your guide.
37. Don’t obsess over your retirement account balances.
Look at your overall retirement savings once a year. Daily or monthly monitoring might make you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere.
38. Don’t forget to factor in inflation.
Today’s cost of goods and services will most likely not be the same when you retire. When you think about how much money you need to retire, make sure to adjust your estimated living expenses for inflation.
39. Stop saving for college.
Parents often make the mistake of sacrificing their own retirements to save for their children’s education. Stop contributing to a college savings account until you are caught up on your retirement savings goals. Remember: Your child has the option to get a student loan, but you won’t be able to get a retirement loan.
40. Ask your employer to start a retirement plan.
If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, ask for one. There are simple retirement plans employers can offer that benefit both employees and the business.
41. Say 'no' to a new car.
Auto loan rates are low and shiny new cars are tempting, but a new car is not an investment — it’s an expense. Cars quickly depreciate and have high operating expenses. Instead, buy a used car, and drive it down to its very last mile.
42. Educate yourself.
If you’re going to get serious about saving, you need to educate yourself. Learn about investing and asset allocation by reading books, and trusted financial websites and blogs. The more you know, the better choices you’ll make.
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