How to save for retirement when it seems like you can't

By Nicole Burdick
For the Bellingham Business Journal

Most of us have been there: You may be fresh out of college, in between jobs, raising a family on one income or simply in a situation where you don’t have a lot of money at the end of the month. Here are five tips that may help you make the most with what you have, while helping to build habits that can continue to serve you in the future.

Starting Small is Better than not Starting at all

Big goals like buying a house, sending your kids to college, or retiring can be intimidating. It’s easy to look at a big number, become discouraged, and give up before you start. But more than likely, you are not going to look back and say, “I sure wish I’d waited longer to start working towards that goal.” In fact, I hear the opposite quite often. Remember that even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Don’t Buy Things you Don’t Need

Whether you make $25,000 a year or $25,000 a month, make the decision to stop buying things you don’t need. You’ll have more money at the end of the month, more space in your home and you’ll be doing the environment a favor. Next time you’re considering a purchase, ask yourself: Do I need this? Will I use this? Do I have room for this? Can I afford this without a credit card?

Say yes to “Free” Money

If you work for an employer who offers matching contributions to a qualified retirement plan, find a way to contribute the required minimum to get the full match. Even if your employer’s contribution seems small, it adds up and grows over time. Suppose you earn $45,000 per year and your employer offers a 1 percent match. If you work there for five years at the same salary, that would add up to $2,250 in employer contributions. If you started the job at age 20 and left at 25, and your account earned 7 percent annual interest until you retired at age 65, that $2,250 employer contribution could grow to nearly $23,000 by the time you retire. Sound like a good deal now?

Don’t Forget Insurance!

Do you think you can’t afford insurance? If you’re in a tight position already, choosing the cheapest insurance – or not buying it in the first place – can seem like a good way to save money. Doing so, however, can have real risks and repercussions. Say you let your car insurance lapse and then get in an accident, or you choose to not take renters insurance and your home is broken into. Are you willing to take those chances? Take some time this month to review all your policies including medical insurance as well as auto and homeowners/renters insurance. If you don’t understand your coverage or aren’t sure where to start, find an insurance agent who is willing to sit down with you, explain your current coverage, and help you determine what is best for you.

Call a Professional

Are you still overwhelmed? You’re not alone! Understanding your finances is a big challenge for many people, regardless of age or income. Consider working with a financial advisor who can help you understand your options and determine the next step in pursuing your goals. If you’re pretty sure your bases are covered, please share this article with a friend or family member who may benefit.

Nicole Burdick is a Financial Advisor with Waddell & Reed and can be reached at (360) 734-4728. This article is meant to be general in nature and should not be construed as investment or financial advice related to your personal situation. Investing involves risk and the potential to lose principal. Systematic investment plans do not ensure a profit nor guarantee against a loss in declining markets. Insurance products are offered through insurance companies with which Waddell & Reed has sales arrangements. Please consult your financial advisor prior to making financial decisions. 

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