Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Overheard At/Tip of the Day: Eight great tips to save for retirement

Dean Kohmann, vice president of 401(k)s for Charles Schwab, chatted with us last week to share details about a new survey about retirement habits. He offered eight tips to help employees get on track with their savings regimen. Tune in to the podcast, and find the tips written below in this exclusive "print for your employees" section.

1. Contribute to your company’s retirement plan up to the maximum employer match.

Even if money is tight, Schwab recommends that people contribute at least enough to their 401(k) or similar plan in order to get the full company match. “You are getting paid to save,” asserts Catherine Miller, vice president of investor development for Schwab. “Don’t leave money on the table.” Most 401(k) contributions are deducted from pre-tax income, so people keep more of their earnings each paycheck and savings grow tax-deferred until retirement.

2. Pay off nondeductible, high-interest-rate debt like credit cards.

Eliminating debt will make it much easier to reach your savings goals. To maximize savings, create a budget and look for ways to cut back on non-essential expenses. Use that extra money to make more than the minimum monthly payment on high interest credit cards or loans. You can also try negotiating with credit card companies for a lower interest rate.

3. Create an emergency fund to cover at least three months of essential living expenses.

Without an emergency fund, Americans are at risk of dipping into retirement savings or taking on more debt if they need quick access to cash. You should save enough to cover at least three months of essential living expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, food and transportation. Keep your emergency fund in an account that’s easy to access like a checking or savings account.

4. Contribute the maximum allowed to tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Now more than ever, you are responsible for ensuring your own financial security during retirement. The more money you set aside early, the more comfortable your retirement may be. Try to contribute up to the IRS maximum in your 401(k) plan at work (the new maximum will be $16,500 in 2009) and also contribute to a traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA), if available to help supplement these savings.

5. Save for a child’s education.

As a general rule, Schwab recommends saving for retirement before your children’s college education. “Your child may be able to get a loan for college, but you can’t get one for retirement,” added Miller. A 529 college savings plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account can help you take advantage of tax-deferred growth on your investment.

6. Save for the down payment on a home.

Start by estimating how much house you can afford. Typically, your mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance should not be more than 28 percent of your gross income. Make sure you keep your risk tolerance and timing needs in mind when deciding how to save for your down payment. Avoid using tax-deferred retirement accounts to fund this purchase.

7. Pay down tax-deductible, high-interest-rate debt like mortgages.

Reducing high-interest-rate debt from a tax-deductible mortgage, home equity or student loan can significantly enhance your ability to save in other areas over time. After taking care of other savings priorities, Schwab recommends you consider refinancing this kind of debt if interest rates have dropped. You may lower monthly payments in the near term and help save money over time, but make sure to factor in any transaction or closing costs before making a decision.

8. Keep investing.

If you’ve accomplished your other savings priorities, investing for the long term may be a good way to stay ahead of inflation and earn more than traditional savings accounts pay. Start by creating a realistic investing plan and put it into action to begin earning right away. Stay diversified with an asset allocation that matches your risk tolerance and keep long-term goals in mind to stay on track.

1 comment:

Boutique Mix Fashion said...

great tips. i'll definitely be using these