Michael St. John, CPA, CRPS®, Vice President & Retirement Plan Services Manager
For most of us, saving for retirement is a necessary step in ensuring a comfortable lifestyle as we grow older. Despite competing demands for our money, ultimately we must commit ourselves to saving for retirement.
You likely have an employer sponsored retirement plan at your place of work where you can save a portion of your paycheck directly into an account set aside for your retirement (401k, 403b, SIMPLE). And don’t forget about Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). If you do not have a retirement plan at work you might consider regular contributions to an IRA.
Follow three basic rules to boost your retirement savings.
- Start Early
Save as much as you can, as soon as you can. The sooner you start, the longer compounding can work in your favor. Don’t assume that you can put off saving for retirement and make up the difference later with larger contributions. Waiting too long to start saving can make it very difficult to catch up. Only a few years could cost you tens of thousands in accumulated savings at retirement age. Start saving today!
- Increase Contributions
Sometimes we cannot save as much as we should early in our working years. If you are not saving as much right now, make a plan to increase your contributions each year or every time you receive a raise or promotion. Always be aware of employer matching contributions. Your first goal should be to contribute the amount that will ensure you receive the maximum employer match.
If possible, you should increase your contributions enough over time that you reach the maximum allowable contribution in your plan. Increasing just one or two percent of your pay each year can quickly get you on your way to a savings rate that can make a big difference in reaching your retirement goals.
- Don’t Stop
It can be tempting to reduce, or even stop contributing when we change jobs or experience other life changes such as getting married or having children. It’s easy to stop, but much, much harder to get started again.
We may also feel inclined to stop saving when investment markets take a downturn. Downward trending markets can actually signal a great time to even increase your contributions. By investing consistently through down market cycles, you purchase investments at a lower cost, buying more shares with each dollar, and allowing for greater potential growth of your account in the future.
Reducing or stopping retirement savings in your employer sponsored plan can also reduce employer matching contributions. Make sure you contribute at least enough to receive the maximum match allowed under your plan.
Make saving a priority! By saving what you can now, increasing your contributions over time , and remaining consistent with your current plan, your savings can really add up over time.
The information contained in this article does not constitute tax or investment advice. The above statements do not include all rules that may impact your contributions and tax benefits. To confirm what options are available to you, please consult your tax advisor or one of our wealth advisors or retirement planning specialists.
Michael St. John, CPA, CRPS® is a Vice President & Retirement Plan Services Manager at Alpine Trust & Investment Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in accounting, income tax and retirement planning.
Investment and insurance products are: not FDIC insured; not guaranteed; and, may be subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal.