Saving for retirement is something you should budget for monthly but let’s face it, it’s easy to fall behind. When current expenses and financial responsibilities take precedence over saving for the future, you may end up skipping out on saving for retirement or lower your contributions. If you’re looking for some clever ways to help you increase your retirement contributions before the deadline, there are plenty of ways to make that happen.
The new 401(k) maximum contribution limit is getting bumped up to $19,500 and you’ll be able to add up to $6,000 to your IRA each year.
The great thing about the annual contribution deadline is that it stretches out to around April 15th each year. This means you don’t necessarily have to max out your retirement accounts by December 31st – there’s still time.
1. Meet Your Employer’s Match
If you have an employer that offers to match your retirement contributions, you’re definitely in luck. Take advantage of this by contributing a percentage of your income that allows you to get the match.
For example, your employer may agree to match 50% of your contributions up to 5% of your income. In other words, you’ll definitely want to commit to contributing at least 5% of your income so your employer can put in another 2.5% of your income.
The best part is that this can all be done automatically and come out of your paycheck before you even get it.
2. Save 1% More
I know that increasing your retirement savings by just 1% may not seem that groundbreaking, but it will still make a difference in the grand scheme of things. For example, if you want to max out your IRA but just haven’t been able to save the $6,000 for the year, try to add extra money here and there.
If you bring home $3,500 per month, saving an extra 1% would only be $35 extra. You may not even notice that amount leaving your account each month and that could motivate you to save more.
3. Redirect Your Raise
If you get a raise around the end of the year, it may provide the perfect opportunity to bump up savings contributions. When it’s time for your annual review, negotiate a higher pay with your employer but commit to keeping all your expenses the same and avoiding lifestyle inflation.
Instead, funnel all the additional income (from your raise) to your retirement savings over the next few months so you can max out your account before the April deadline.
4. Contribute Your Tax Refund
Lump-sum payments like a tax refund are a great way to increase your retirement contributions drastically. I once used my entire tax refund to payoff a car loan one year. Even though I would have probably preferred to do something else with the money, I knew that paying off debt would help me get ahead financially.
When it comes to saving for retirement, you really need to think of it as an investment because that’s exactly what it is. You are putting money into a retirement account but you’ll be benefitting from it later as it grows due to compound interest.
File your taxes as early as you can if you’re expecting a refund so you can apply it to your retirement account before the annual contribution deadline.
5. Have a Frugal Holiday Season
The holidays can be fun but let’s face it, most people spend hundreds or well over $1,000 during this time. If you scale back and opt to have a frugal holiday season as well, you can free up more money to add to your retirement account.
Keep Christmas cheap by limiting your gift list, making homemade gifts, and finding fun and free ways to celebrate. You can bake a dessert to bring to any holiday parties you get invited do and respectfully decline gift exchange invites. Reuse decor from previous years and take advantage of free activities in your area.
Stay home for New Year’s Eve and watch movies, or play games with friends and skip out on exchanging gifts for Valentine’s day in February. If you commit to doing all these things, you can very well free up around $1,000 that can be added to your retirement account.
6. Make Some Extra Money
Remember, you always have the option to earn extra money to help increase your retirement contributions. See if you can do some flexible work on the side like deliver food with DoorDash, drive for Uber, or walk dogs during your spare time.
You can also take advantage of holiday seasonal jobs and even sell a service you specialize in as a freelancer. This can be something you do at work or just a hobby. Funnel all of your earnings to your retirement account and your future self will definitely thank you.
7. Lower Your Variable Expenses
If you have a budget, try to increase your retirement contributions by lowering your variable expenses. If you think of this from the perspective of using a 50/30/20 budget, it’s pretty simple. Traditionally, around 50% of your expenses would go toward needs, 30% toward wants, and 20% toward debt and saving.
You can always tweak these percentages to increase your savings rate. For example, you can adopt a 40/20/40 budget. Focusing on lowering some of your flexible expenses by cutting out subscriptions and services you don’t need, getting a cheaper phone plan, lowering your grocery budget, shopping around for better insurance rates, and dining out less.
Saving for retirement is a huge ongoing priority. Use some of these tips to help you catch up and increase your retirement contributions each year.
In the future, you’ll be glad you cut out unwanted expenses, got on a budget, and utilized windfalls and extra income to save more for retirement.