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Seven Strategies to Help You Build A Bigger Nest Egg - Even if You're Playing Catch-Up

September 29, 2021

Have you begun to save for retirement? It is never too early to start planning for your retirement, and in a perfect world, we would all start saving for retirement at age 25 and life would never throw any curveballs to send us off track. Of course, this is far from a perfect world, and that's why so many Americans find themselves playing catch-up and carrying anxiety about never achieving their retirement savings goals.

Today, I want to offer you some powerful techniques you can use to accelerate your savings right now - even if you've waited longer than you would hope to begin saving. Below, we’ll look at seven tactics to help you get serious - and successful - about your retirement nest egg.

Maximizing Employer Contributions

Do you have an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or a 403(b)? If so, you may just have a secret weapon available to you for retirement savings: the employer match. Many companies will match their employee’s retirement contributions up to a certain amount, meaning you can access free money just by contributing a certain amount from your paycheck each month. The key to maximizing this second contributor to your account is making sure you understand what your employer's max contribution is - then do everything you can to make sure you get it. For example, if your employer matches $0.50 to a dollar up to 6% of your pay, you must contribute at least 6% of your pay in order to receive the maximum matching amount. This may mean setting aside more from each paycheck than you typically do, but the payoff in retirement will be well worth your trouble.

Tax-Advantaged Accounts

If you're contributing to a retirement plan (such as a 401(k) plan) through your job, or you have a Traditional IRA, you can receive favorable tax treatment from the IRS, too. With these accounts, you won't pay any federal income taxes on your contributions, leaving you with a greater ability to build your savings in the present. Then, you'll pay taxes on your contributions and earnings when you begin taking distributions in retirement. These accounts do have contribution limits in place, which you can check out here for 401(k)s and here for IRAs.

SEE ALSO: Do You Know Your Financial Independence Day?

Some 401(k) plans offer Roth contributions in addition to pre-tax 401(k). That means you can use after-tax dollars to contribute and the distributions - including earnings - will be tax free. If you believe your future income is higher, then a Roth 401(k)  is more beneficial than a pre-tax 401(k). You're allowed to split between the Roth and pre-tax as long as the total doesn't exceed the contribution limits.

A Roth IRA is similar to Roth 401(k) in tax treatment. You can learn more about the Roth IRA by reading this blog post.

Increase Contributions Gradually

As you learn about a potential company match and the IRS’ contributing limits for certain types of accounts, you can better goal-set for how much to set aside each month - especially if you're not yet maximizing your savings. However, it can be daunting to learn that you need to save, say, an additional $600 every month. Rather than make such a big change all at once, use the “One Percent Trick” instead. Gradually increase your retirement contributions by just one percent each month or quarter, and soon you'll be saving a lot more without feeling a big hit to your paycheck all at once.

Make the Most of Your Health Savings Account (HSA)

If you've heard lots of buzz in recent years about Health Savings Accounts, it's for good reason. HSAs offer a triple-tax benefit you simply can't get with other types of savings accounts. You can max out contributions free from federal and state income tax and invest the money with no tax on your earnings either. You can also withdraw funds tax-free for qualified medical expenses. This particular detail makes HSAs ideal for retirees because studies show that the average retiree's medical costs are 15% higher than their annual expenses.

So, check to see whether your employer offers an HSA plan and if you're already using one then consider upping your contributions. If you are self-employed and do not pay yourself a salary, you can set up an HSA account on your own and deduct the contributions on your income tax returns. Be sure to check out contribution limits.

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Managing your wealth is a very personal subject, one we should discuss in a more personal setting.