One of my financial goals for this year was to increase the amount of money I put into my retirement account. Some day I would like to max out as many retirement accounts as possible, but for now I’m just happy to increase my regular contributions. In this economic climate, many are seeing that it is important to set aside more in a retirement account or some other savings vehicle. However, finding extra money to set aside for retirement can be challenging.
Photo by Rob and Stephanie Levy via Flickr
Here are some ways that you can “find” more money for your retirement account:
Evaluate Your Spending
The first thing to do is to consider what you are spending money on. Some experts estimate that the average household wastes between 10% and 15% of its income each month. This means that if you make $4,000 a month, there is a good chance that you are wasting at least $400 of it!
Go through your expenses and see where you are spending your money. Personal finance software and web applications can help you with pinpointing the types of things you are spending money on. If you have not been keeping track of your spending, now is a good time to start. Track your spending and see where you can cut back. You do not have to give up all your simple pleasures, but you can probably cut out some of the less important expenditures — and add the money you save to your retirement account.
Earn More Money
Cutting your expenses is fine, but sometimes you really cannot cut more from your spending. Or perhaps you want to find a way to set aside even more for the future. In this case, you might consider looking for ways to earn more money. While a part time job for you or your life partner is certainly a possibility, technology offers other solutions. The Internet provides ways for you to earn money in a variety of ways, from building a web site to turning a crafting hobby into a side business. You can put your earnings into a retirement account.
Another option for earning a little more money is selling unwanted items. You can have a yard sale, or put your goods on eBay or Craig’s List. This one-time infusion of cash can be a real boost to your retirement account, as your money sits there and makes use of compound interest.
Another option is to consider the types of investments you have in your retirement account. A portion of my retirement account includes dividend stocks. Every so often, I receive payouts in the form of dividends. However, since my retirement account has been built with long term investing in mind, these dividends are automatically reinvested.
Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs) allow you to take the money from dividends and automatically buy more shares. It’s a lot like getting free money. This is one way to boost your retirement savings, since you automatically get additional shares — shares that can increase in value over time.
Developing a Habit of Saving
The main thing is to get in the habit of saving. You need to adjust your mindset so that when you “find” extra money, the first thing you do is pay yourself. While you do not have to put the entire amount in your retirement account, you should put at least some of it aside for the future. Being able to increase your retirement contributions is about lifestyle — living in a way that yields a little extra each month so that you can put more in your tax-advantaged account.
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own blog at Miranda Marquit.