By Maddie Duley, GoBankingRates featuring Brian Spinelli, CFP®, AIF®, Chair of Investment Committee/Senior Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove
If you haven’t started saving for retirement, or don’t think you will ever be able to retire, you are not alone. A recent GOBankingRates survey found that 22% of people don’t believe they will ever be able to retire and 23% of Americans have $0 saved for retirement. For those in fear of affording retirement, here is some insight from experts on how to save for retirement starting today.
Change Your Mindset
The first step to committing to saving for retirement is making sure you are ready to change your spending and saving habits in order to retire. “You have to first believe you can do it, or else you won’t put yourself in a position to do it,” said Brennen Schlagbaum, founder of Budgetdog, a financial website with resources that help people live debt-free. “If you don’t believe you can, you won’t take the necessary steps today to retire.”
Open a Retirement Account
Secondly, financial advisors recommend setting up a retirement savings plan as soon as possible.
Here’s what you need to know about the different types of retirement accounts available and the differences between them.
Take Advantage of Employer-Sponsored Plans
Create a retirement plan through your employer whenever possible. This is the easiest way to start saving for retirement.
“Maximize employer benefits. Get started in your company’s retirement plan right away and contribute a minimum of what your company matches — and more if cash flow allows,” said Faron Daugs, founder and CEO of Harrison Wallace Financial Group. “If you are going to be in a lower effective tax bracket, consider the tax-free growth benefits of a Roth 401(k) option if offered.”
If You Don’t Have Access to Employer-Sponsored Plans, Open an Individual Retirement Account
For those who are self-employed or do not have access to a retirement plan through an employer, opening an IRA account is a great option as well. Particularly with rising inflation, it’s crucial that individuals saving for retirement understand the difference between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs.
“Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are both retirement accounts that allow one’s money to grow tax-free,” said Clark Kendall, president and CEO of Kendall Capital Management. “For both types of accounts, the funds can be withdrawn without penalty after the account holder turns 59 ½ years old.”
One thing that people should be aware of when creating this type of account is that if you need to withdraw money before age 59 ½, the money that you withdraw is going to be taxed an additional 10%.
The primary difference between the two types of accounts is that “Roth IRA accounts are pre-taxed, meaning when you withdraw the funds, you will not need to pay taxes,” Kendall said. “For traditional IRAs, you can contribute pre-taxed income and will have to pay taxes at the time of withdrawal.”
Watch Your Spending
The third step in the retirement saving process is keeping a watchful eye on your spending. “Monitor all financial spending, insurance payments, investments, etc. at least annually, and put together a comprehensive financial plan so you really understand how much you need to be saving to achieve your short-and long-term financial goals,” Daugs said.
Financial advisors also recommend changing the way you look at a budget in order to not think of it as “restrictive,” but instead as an aid that will provide you the opportunity to retire. “Think of a budget as a spending plan to ensure that your retirement and other financial goals are set,” Schlaagbaum said. “Using a zero-based budget will fast-track you to retiring healthy.”
Grow Your Money
The fourth step in saving for retirement is patience. It can be very unfulfilling to continually put money into a retirement savings plan without seeing much growth; however, this growth happens over several decades and requires consistency and patience.
“The first 10 years of savings generally won’t feel like things are growing fast enough,” said Brian Spinelli, senior wealth advisor and chair of the investment committee at Halbert Hargrove. “What you’re essentially doing in that period is building a foundation — a meaningful amount of money that down the road should start to compound at a faster rate.”
Another helpful way to look at this is to put numbers behind the words and understand how investing a little bit now generates growth in a retirement savings account that will allow you to enjoy greater benefits in the future.
“Think of it this way — making 10% on $1,000 produces $100 of investment returns. At the end of the day, $100 may not last too long in retirement,” Spinelli said. “However, if you can build a savings balance to $100,000 and get 10% returns, that amounts to $10,000. Now start to replicate that over time, and eventually, those return dollars start to compound at a higher rate than your annual contributions.”
Avoid High-Risk Investments
The final tip for creating a retirement nest egg is to avoid investing in unstable or high-risk areas.
“When it comes to investing for retirement, I recommend avoiding investing in cryptocurrency,” Kendall said. “Cryptocurrency is simply a medium of exchange. It doesn’t pay dividends, it doesn’t give you a piece of ownership in a company and you can’t do anything to improve its performance.”
It’s Not Too Late
Among the 22% of Americans who said they don’t believe they will ever be able to retire, 20% of those between the ages of 55 and 64 gave that response. If you are in this age bracket and do not think you will be able to retire, there is still hope.
“Those who are nearing retirement age (roughly age 55 to 64), but have not retired yet still have time to boost their retirement savings,” Kendall said. “I recommend starting by increasing your 401(k), TSP, IRA or other retirement plan contributions if you aren’t already maxing out those investments.”
If you started saving for retirement later and need to stay in the workforce a little longer, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“There are many advantages to staying in the workforce,” Kendall said. “[For one], Social Security benefits increase with additional quarters worked and later withdrawal.”