6-Steps-for-effective-grassroots-advocacyWe’re accustomed to seeing some of the best retirement stories—and ideas—in usnews.com pieces, and as this recent one points out, “even if you feel you aren’t yet completely prepared for retirement, there is still time to correct mistakes, no matter what stage you are at.” The article continues:

“One common scenario is that you haven’t regularly increased your contribution level to your retirement account or reviewed your investments. Adopting a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ mindset can be costly – so set annual reminders to increase your contribution rate by 1 percent each year and review your accounts regularly.

“You can also cut out costly daily habits, like buying lunch every day, and put that money into your retirement accounts instead. It could add up to thousands of dollars a year and tens of thousands of dollars by the time you retire. Taking a close look at your budget for other daily expenses that you can do without is another way to add more to your retirement funds.

“If you are still struggling to select the investments that make the most sense for you, then you might want to consider turning to a professional for help. Advisory services can help you pick the most appropriate funds (and the percentage to invest in each) to best support your risk tolerance, timeline and personal goals. Enlisting outside support can help you take the steps necessary to manage your money and incorporate regular portfolio reviews into your routine.

“That’s just the beginning of the steps you can take to create a comfortable retirement lifestyle for yourself. Here are six more ideas:

  1. Create a retirement savings and investing strategy.

“Ask yourself these three questions: What kind of investor are you, in terms of risk tolerance and the amount of time you have to save for retirement? What are your estimated monthly income needs in retirement? How much money do you need to have saved on the day you retire? These questions will help guide your investments. If you are going to lose sleep over risky investments, for example, then you might want to opt for safer, more conservative options instead. But you don’t want to be so conservative that your money doesn’t grow as you age.

  1. Make retirement saving a top financial priority.

“Depending on how much you’re already socking away for retirement, you might need to rearrange your budget so you can afford to increase your contribution level. You might consider eating out less, eliminating cable or even taking on some freelance work – whatever you have to do.

  1. Create a general savings account and pay yourself first.

“Your 401(k) contribution is automatically deducted from your paycheck. Use the same model and create an automatic deposit to your general savings account each payday. People with healthy savings in the bank are better able to cope with emergencies and can avoid dipping into retirement savings. Plan on storing up at least six months’ worth of expenses.

  1. Avoid unnecessary debt.

“People who bite off more than they can chew expense-wise can spend years or even decades wading through that debt. All the while, they aren’t able to save for retirement at the level they should. Pay credit cards off in full each month, and resist the urge to overspend on big-ticket items. You don’t want to waste money on interest rates and fees.

  1. Pay debt off more quickly than required.

“If you have student loans, credit card balances, car payments or other debt, arrange your budget so you’re paying more than the minimum monthly payment. You’ll lessen the amount of interest you pay in the long run and will eliminate debt more quickly. Once you’re not weighed down by the extra debt, you’ll be able to save more for retirement.

  1. Make the math work.

“The last thing you want is to be surprised at retirement because you don’t have enough money. If the math doesn’t add up, find a way to change the equation. If you can’t currently save the amount needed to reach your retirement goal, you need to spend less money, make more money or adjust your retirement expectations. This could mean retiring later, working part-time in retirement or adjusting your lifestyle.

“Don’t make the mistake of taking a hands-off approach and assuming your retirement money will be there for you when you need it. Before you start imagining a future of golf outings and trips to Europe, you’ll need to set up a plan to better understand the investments you need to make and the money you need to save to live the retirement lifestyle you envision. Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to a successful retirement.”