Maximizing Your Retirement Savings: A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on
 
May 15, 2024

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Maximizing Your Retirement Savings: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you aware that the average American has less than $100,000 tucked away for retirement? That number might sound absurd, especially considering that retirement can easily stretch over several decades. But there’s no reason to be stressed – for your future, it is truly never too late to make a significant difference. 

This how-to guide is your one-stop shop for helping you to do exactly that. The methods we’ll examine in this how-to guide can help you increase your retirement savings quickly. We’re going to teach you some simple yet competitive strategies for preparing your retirement, along with how to apply them, regardless of how much cash you’re going to start with or how old you are.

Setting a Clear Target for Your Retirement

Think of your retirement savings like a road trip: you can't get where you're going without a destination in mind. That's why setting a concrete goal is the first step to maximizing your savings. Forget vague ideas of "retiring comfortably." Instead, we need specific numbers to aim for.

Goals help you stay motivated and disciplined. When you have a specific target instead of vague hopes of saving enough, it is easier to plan. You will know if the present efforts are sufficient or should be increased. Do not fret if the numbers are staggering to start with – the idea is to figure out the feasible beginning. 

The good news is, there is no need to do the complicated calculations by hand. Retirement calculators make the task incredibly simple. Here are a few trustworthy options:

Calculators will ask about your desired retirement income. To answer this, list your likely expenses such as:

  • Essentials: Housing, food, healthcare, utilities.
  • Lifestyle: Travel, hobbies, dining, entertainment.
  • Variables: Desired location (high-cost vs. low-cost areas), health (potential long-term care needs), family support plans.

The dollars won’t get the same in 20 years as they do today. Over time, inflation reduces purchasing power. For example, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate for the last 20 years has averaged 2.0%. That might sound small, but compounded over time, it means a significant loss of purchasing power for your savings. Additionally, with longer lifespans, your savings need to stretch further. 

The Power of Employer-Sponsored Plans

People are so lucky to have their retirement plan from an employer, like 401k or 403b. Because it has a significant tax advantage, in turn, it makes it one of the most potent tools that exist for increasing your retirement nest egg. In essence, the money comes out of your paycheck before taxes are taken, therefore reducing your taxable income for the year. It's sort of like squirreling away more money all at once.

You can refer to your employer to find out if you are eligible. For employees who work within the private sector, 401(k) plans are supposed to be provided, while 403(b) plans mainly apply to the employment sector of non-profits and public schools. They have a yearly contribution limit, which is monitored by the IRS, applied to all the plans so they are not misused as a tax shelter. For 2023, the contribution is limited to $22,500, but one who is above 50 years of age can go as high as $30,000.

More so, many employers offer to match your contributions. In short, that is free money. For example, when your employer matches 50% up to 6% of your salary and you earn $50,000 a year, if you contribute 6% or $3,000, then your employer would chip in an additional $1,500. This means your donation is matched in both impact and potential growth.

If you started at age 25 and consistently received that match until retirement at 65, with an average 7% return, that extra $1,500 per year could grow to a whopping extra $250,000+.

Additionally, your contributions are pre-tax, lowering your current taxable income. Taxes are paid when you withdraw the money in retirement. You contribute after-tax money, but qualified withdrawals later are tax-free. This is an excellent tactic if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in retirement. So if you have access to an employer plan, make contributing a top priority!

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

IRAs are like retirement savings accounts you open yourself, perfect if your employer doesn't offer a plan or you want to contribute even more. The two main types are:

1. Traditional IRA - Traditional IRA may be tax-deductible, depending on your income and coverage by an employer plan. The full deduction eligibility phases out if you're covered by an employer plan and your income exceeds certain thresholds. 

2.  Roth IRA - Roth IRA is made with after-tax dollars (no immediate tax break). The investment growth and qualified withdrawals in retirement are free of tax. You can have the ability to contribute directly to a Roth IRA phases out at higher income levels. 

Which to choose? Consider your current tax bracket vs. what you expect in retirement. If you think you'll be in a higher bracket later, a Roth's tax-free withdrawals are super appealing.

With IRAs, you have vast choices. You can invest in a variety of options including individual stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs (exchange-traded funds) – the flexibility allows you to tailor your investment portfolio to meet your specific goals. 

Another option is the "Backdoor Roth IRA," which, while it might seem like a loophole, is actually a strategic workaround for those who earn too much to contribute directly to a Roth IRA. This strategy involves contributing to a Traditional IRA, which typically has no income limits, and then converting it to a Roth IRA. Since this process can be complex, it's advisable to consult a tax advisor if you're interested.

Also note that the IRAs have lower annual contribution limits than employer-sponsored plans.

Beyond Traditional Retirement Savings

While 401(k)s and IRAs are retirement powerhouses, let's expand your horizons with a few options that offer unique advantages. 

Real Estate Investing

Real estate investments, if done properly, can be a great way for individuals to grow their money and eventually secure good earnings for retirement. Real estate does offer potential appreciation in the form of properties increasing in value, along with having the potential for a stream of good steady income if rented.

Real estate also has potential tax benefits and diversified portfolios. For those who don't like property management, there are alternatives such as Concreit, which allows fractional real estate investment and presents an opportunity for an individual to invest in real estate without doing hands-on management.

If ownership of the entire property or even fractional ownership thereof is a little too intimidating for you, take a look at REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). The company or firm takes ownership and management of a portfolio of properties that generates income (e.g., malls, apartment buildings, office buildings, etc.).

Tradeable on exchanges like stocks, Real Estate Investment Trusts offer a low-cost and more liquid gateway into real estate and an easy way to add diversification to your portfolio without direct property management. Many also offer attractive dividends, padding your passive income stream. 

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

If you qualify for a high-deductible health insurance plan, availing yourself of an HSA is potentially attractive. An HSA offers its contributors a unique "triple tax benefit," as it allows for tax-deductible contributions. Growth within the HSA is tax-free, and qualified withdrawals for medical expenses are also tax-free – even in retirement! Think of an HSA as something that helps you set up a tax-advantaged retirement medical fund so you can take care of the healthcare costs when they come up.

Social Security

Social Security forms a basis for guaranteed income in retirement. The benefits received are based on the history of earning, and the individual does contribute to the system all years that he is working. This will serve to change the amount paid out monthly, depending on the age at which you claim benefits.

For more individualized estimates, just use the calculators at the Social Security website. Just remember, it is wise to view Social Security as an important piece of your retirement puzzle—not as your only set of income.

Strategies to Turbocharge Your Savings

Now that you understand the various retirement saving tools, let's explore tactics to supercharge your progress:

1. Gradual increase: Don't underestimate small changes. Commit to incrementally increasing your retirement savings rate each year. Start with 1% of your income annually. As you get raises or pay off debt, automatically divert some of that freed-up cash into savings. It may seem minor, but consistency over time yields incredible results.

2. Automation: Set up automatic transfers from your paycheck to your retirement accounts. "Set it and forget it" alleviates the ability to spend that money on something else and ensures you are contributing on a regular basis.

3. Catch-up contributions: When reaching 50, the IRS blesses you with the ability to contribute more to your 401(k), IRAs, and some other plans. In 2023, the allowable catch-up contribution to a 401(k) is $7,500 in addition to the regular contribution limit. Make your catch-up contributions to really get on track for retirement or achieve your goals sooner.

4. Consider downsizing: As you plan for retirement, if you have a large home, downsize, and you can make a good financial gain. It will release considerable equity to top up your retirement savings. Check this with the many resources out there to see if it makes sense for you.

5. Side hustles: Got a little time and energy to spare? Your side hustle may help you have a few extra bucks you can throw toward your retirement account. Whether it's freelancing, dog walking, or driving for a ride-share service, there are plenty of options out there in the gig economy.

The Bottom Line

There are a variety of powerful tools for maximizing your retirement savings: from employer-sponsored plans with their tax benefits and matching contributions to the flexibility of IRAs and the unique opportunities of real estate or HSAs. There are also strategies like automating savings, increasing your contributions over time, and even utilizing side hustles to boost your progress.

Most importantly, it’s never too early or too late to take these steps. Even baby steps count when added over the course of a lifetime. Just take up the tools and strategies we have talked over above, and you will be on the way to savings that will allow you to retire and be comfortable living at home, doing lots of travelling, or whatever else you have aspired to do. Your financial future is up to you, so make it a bright one! 

Disclaimer

This information is educational, and is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security which can only be made through official documents such as a private placement memorandum or a prospectus. This information is not a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell an investment or financial product, or take any action. This information is neither individualized nor a research report, and must not serve as the basis for any investment decision. All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of capital. Past performance does not guarantee future results or returns. Neither Concreit nor any of its affiliates provides tax advice or investment recommendations and do not represent in any manner that the outcomes described herein or on the Site will result in any particular investment or tax consequence.Before making decisions with legal, tax, or accounting effects, you should consult appropriate professionals. Information is from sources deemed reliable on the date of publication, but Concreit does not guarantee its accuracy.

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