In 2012, Ally Bank’s community told us that paying off credit card debt was their number one financial resolution. In 2013, getting out of debt was the most discussed resolution. What’s a smart resolution you can make in 2014?
According to Gyutae Park, co-founder of Money Crashers, one great resolution to make is saving more for your retirement.
“The majority of Americans don’t have enough [saved],” says Park. “And there are plenty who don’t have anything saved at all.”
Below, Park offers a mix of basic and unique savings strategies that can help anyone – regardless of how far along you are in your retirement plan – save more for their golden years.
First: Eliminate Debt
Before you can work on making a real impact on your retirement savings, Park stresses the importance of eliminating debt. If you’re concerned that credit card debt is preventing you from saving, Park has some encouraging words: “Credit card debt can be erased in a year, depending on your overall balances. Even if you have $3,000 worth of credit card debt, that only equates to a $250 payment per month.”
If your home mortgage payments are getting in the way of savings, Park offers this unique and pragmatic strategy.
“Pay extra on your home mortgage,” he says. “Even if you can swing an extra $50 each month towards your home loan, you’ll save on interest and cut down on the time it takes to pay off your loan.
“Once your debt is paid off,” Park says, “you can seriously ramp up your retirement savings.”
Next: Start Saving
Park recommends directing any extra money you have each month towards your 401(k). If your company doesn’t offer one, or if you’re self-employed, an IRA is a smart option for a retirement account. But making sure you actually have extra money each month is key.
To do that, Park recommends two simple but highly valuable ideas.
The first: “Find five ways to save $25 per month,” Park says. “You’ll have an extra $1,500 annually for retirement investing.” If you need some easy savings ideas, check out our recent article on quick financial fixes.
The second: revisit your budget. “Write out your income and expenses and work towards getting your spending under your income,” Park says. “You can do so by reducing monthly bills and scaling back personal purchases.”
Lastly: Set Realistic Goals
Financial resolutions can be great in theory, but making unrealistic ones can actually be counterproductive, according to Park.
“Don’t make your goals too aggressive,” he says. “That can lead to frustration and ultimately giving up.”
To avoid this New Year’s resolution trap, Park says you should “make your goals attainable, and celebrate the small wins when you reach them.”
Here’s to a happy, healthy and financially productive 2014.
What’s your financial resolution in 2014? What’s one strategy you have for saving for retirement?