Retirement Savings Tricks Anyone Can Use

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 5:08 PM PDT by

By now, you’ve probably heard all about the “latte effect.” It works like this: You head down to Starbucks or some other corner coffee shop and plunk down about $2, which is close the average price of joe in the nicer places.

Simple math takes over from here. Two dollars times 5 days a week is $10. If you subtract a couple of vacation weeks (although presumably you drink coffee on vacation as well), you’re talking about 50 weeks times $10.

retirement savings

All told, you’re into your caffeine supplier for $500 a year, leaving aside inflation for the moment.

Now the compounding trick becomes relevant. If you stop drinking coffee altogether and save the money instead, it grows over the years.

Your coffee habit over 40 years “costs” you $20,000, right? Not if you consider what you might have made by investing the money instead: $114,292. That’s what happens when you save just $500 and add $500 a year and let it grow at market rate of 7 percent.

Motivated yet? Okay, here are some retirement savings tricks you can use, and you won’t even have to give up coffee:

1. Pay yourself first

This is fundamental. You can’t spend money you don’t have. Set up an automatic deduction from your paycheck into a 401(k) or IRA account. Your human resources rep can do this. Send money directly to an account designated “long-term savings.”

2. Pay less taxes

If you’re going to automate, the best way is through a 401(k), since the paycheck deduction also reduces your current tax liability. The tax savings will allow you to save more than you might otherwise, so take that into consideration in your calculations.

3. Bank windfalls

If you get a check from a relative, a tax refund or some other unexpected bump of money during the year, bank it! Put it in your personal IRA. If you are maxed out at work on your 401(k), try a Roth IRA instead.

4. Avoid emotional investing

Earning a reasonable long-term return on your investments requires discipline. Unfortunately, our all-too-human reaction to the stock market is to buy as stocks spiral higher and then sell after they fall.

You should, in fact, do the reverse. A balanced portfolio with a solid rebalancing ethic can help you avoid these traps.

5. Stay healthy, be rich

Last but not least, exercise. The longer you stay healthy, the less you will need to spend your retirement savings on costly medical procedures later in life. This can be as simple and cheap as daily walking and a balanced diet.

If you want to give up coffee, too, that might help. But depriving yourself is not really a sustainable habit, whereas automated saving and prudent investing are pain-free, powerful, long-term tools that will help you retire on time.