Get psyched to save: Motivation for your retirement dreams

Man thinking of strategies to plan and save for retirement.

For most of us still working, the topic of retirement triggers mixed emotions. While the dream of retiring is appealing, the reality of entering our "golden years" often is marked by uncertainty.

It's not surprising that the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that only 13% of American workers are “very confident” about having enough money to retire comfortably (while 28% are “not at all confident”).1

Strategies to plan and save for retirement

Whether your retirement is decades away or soon at hand, it's never too late to plan and save. It’s just a matter of getting—and staying—motivated:

Picture the positive.

Imagine your life in retirement. Does it start when you're 45 or 75? Do you travel to exotic destinations or spend winters at your vacation home? Perhaps you'd like to help your grandchildren with their college tuition.

When money isn't an issue, your retirement dreams can be unlimited. Thinking of saving for retirement as a way of achieving specific dreams puts a positive spin on the activity.

Picture the opposite.

Now think of your life as a retiree in a different way. We've seen reports that the Social Security trust fund could experience a 25% shortfall in about 20 years.

What if you can't count on that income to supplement what you've saved for retirement? What if health problems erode your disposable income? What is retirement like if you have to take low-paying, part-time jobs to subsist?

Staying realistic about the possibilities—positive and negative—may provide the discipline you need to keep saving.

Set milestone goals.

It may be easier to save for retirement if you break it down into smaller steps. Set short-term goals, such as "In one year, I'll pay off a credit card and divert that money to retirement savings," or "I want to double my savings in the next five years." When you achieve a milestone, celebrate your accomplishment and then set a new goal.

Keep things simple.

If possible, automate your retirement savings. Arrange to have a portion of your pay contributed directly into a retirement account. And consider signing up for automatic increases (if your plan offers this feature) to keep pace with your vision for retirement.

Make small changes.

Boosting your retirement savings doesn't mean you have to make significant changes. Look for opportunities in everyday activities, such as skipping the daily gourmet coffee to save around $100 each month and invest that money in your future. Small amounts contributed today have the potential to grow into much larger savings by retirement.

Reinforce good habits.

At least annually or as significant events occur, review the amount you're saving to measure your progress, and work with a financial professional to periodically recharge your retirement dreams.

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