Your retirement is going to get here sooner than you think and, chances are, if you’re reading this post, you aren’t a fresh out of the dorms millennial looking for the simplest way to retire early. You’re more likely in your 30s or 40s (or maybe even 50s) and realizing that you are now entering the game of “catch up” when it comes to saving for and funding your retirement. Don’t worry, even though the situation feels dire, it is not too late to fund your retirement.
According to Laura Judkins, the key to accumulating savings for retirement is to begin with a budget. Creating a budget isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think. In fact, it may very well be one of the best things you do for your financial situation. There are plenty of guides out there that will teach you how to set up that budget and even more guides on how to stick to that budget, so we won’t get into the details here.
We’ll just tell you that putting together a budget is the first and perhaps one of the most important of many steps you can take to help you save for retirement. Why? Because you can create a “save for retirement” line item!
By now almost all of us have heard of the 401(k). You might even have one through your employer. If so, congratulations! You’re more ahead of the game than you might have thought you were. The key to growing your 401(k) is to transfer the maximum amount allowed each year and to get your employer to match it. This way you save as much as possible and all of that yummy compound interest will just pile up and up and up.
Of course, the other key to a successful 401(k) account is to not touch it. Do not borrow against your 401(k). The fees are high and the consequences can be severe.
The Individual Retirement Account is the self-funded version of a 401(k). These are accounts you build on your own to either supplement an existing 401(k) or to stand in the place of one. To put it more plainly: IRAs are a high-interest yielding savings account into which you tuck money away for your future needs. IRAs are great because they can reduce your tax burden and they also have higher compound interest rates than the average savings account.
Investing: Stocks and Bonds
If nobody has yet told you that the key to a financially solvent future is to invest in the stock market, you’re lucky…even if it does happen to be true. The idea here is to create a variety of sources of income as possible. Don’t just jump into an eTrade account and hope for the best, though! Start small with a few stocks here and there, or create an account with a micro-investing company that will create a small portfolio for you. As you learn about how to read and understand the market you can move into bigger investments.
A word about bonds: Bonds are a great “baby step” into investing because you are almost always guaranteed to get, at a minimum, your initial investment back. They can also, depending on which bonds you choose, be quite lucrative if you allow them to mature completely.
There are a few ways to go about this. You can invest in your own new business, which will give you the benefit of working for yourself and being your own boss. If the business becomes successful, eventually you can sell it for a profit and use that sale to help fund your retirement along with what you’ve saved and invested already.
Another option is to invest in someone else’s company in exchange for a percentage of the profits or company’s shares. If you like the idea of passive income, this is a fantastic option but it is not for the risk-averse. If the company tanks, you won’t even get your initial investment back.
Investing: Real Estate
One particularly great option is to invest in a rental property or two. If you have good renters, owning a rental property can be a fantastic source of income for decades to come. The goal is to have the renter’s rent payments offset any mortgage payments you might be making and also give you some extra funds to tuck away in the bank.
Whichever method(s) you choose, don’t wait to get started. Start saving right now. Even transferring five dollars from your checking into your savings account is a good first step! The sooner you begin saving, even small amounts, the more you’ll have on hand when it is time to retire.