First, understand that any amount saved for the future is better than no savings at all. Even small amounts will grow and compound over the years. Then, consider key life events that might provide a good opportunity to boost your savings. Here are some milestones that may provide the opportunity to boost your savings.
Getting a raise
Perhaps your hard work has been rewarded with a raise. Now it’s time to think about using this money to then reward your future self. As you’ve already been living on a lower salary, you could continue that lifestyle and direct the extra amount in your paycheck toward retirement savings. You could also choose to keep half the extra income from your raise and put the other half into retirement savings. That way you’ll feel a bit of a bump up in your lifestyle while still saving for retirement.
A child starting kindergarten
After you’ve shed a few tears because your baby is growing up too fast, take a look at your monthly budget, as this may help you feel better. If your child is going off to a public school, you’re likely to realize savings once you’re no longer paying for daycare or preschool (some states do offer free pre-kindergarten programs). Because you’re already used to taking that chunk out for educational expenses, setting aside even half the amount you paid for childcare shouldn’t feel too onerous.
A new job
Landing a new job can be the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, in numerous ways. Starting a job at a new company is a great time to rededicate yourself to saving, especially if your new position comes with a higher salary. Many companies automatically enroll their employees into a retirement savings plan, but usually at much too low of a savings level. Challenge yourself to contribute a few percentage points more at your new job than you did in your last one. You could make it a goal to ensure you contribute at least enough to take full advantage of the company match, if there is one.
Don’t despair when the unrequested AARP membership shows up in your mailbox. Hitting the half-century mark is cause for celebration—at least where retirement saving is concerned.
Here’s why: Though the contribution limit on 401(k)s and 403(b)s is currently $18,000 a year, and $5,500 is the most you can add to an individual retirement accounts, starting the year you turn 50, you can invest more.
With 401(k)s and 403(b)s, you can add $6,000 more per year after you turn 50, for a total of $24,000. For IRAs, you can put away $1,000 extra per year, totaling $6,500. Those sums will add up, because, at 50, you still could have more than a decade to contribute.
Becoming an empty-nester
Depending on how old you were when you started a family, you might have a few years to turbocharge your savings after the kids finally fly from the nest. You may no longer be footing college tuition bills, car insurance payments, or your child’s cell phone charges. Household expenses including food bills may have also decreased.
If you crank up your retirement savings at this time, you may not even feel it in your day to day life, given what a big bite children can take out of the family budget.
It’s worth noting that families will have differing timelines for when they can take advantage of an empty nest, as more people have delayed childrearing and some adult children are still living at home.