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Financial Planning

6 Things to Give Up to Boost Your Retirement Savings

When we think of saving for retirement many of us visualize a life of ramen noodles and nights in front of the TV. Saving ain’t sexy and we’re suffering because of it (56% of all workers say they have less than $25,000 in savings according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute).

Articles by Betterment Editors

By the Editorial Staff
Betterment Resource Center  |  Published: June 20, 2012

Giving up lattes may be the popular opinion on saving, but it’s also boring. And speaking from personal experience, self-denial mixed with boredom is a quick recipe for falling off the wagon.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that champagne taste is the way to go (when lemonade money is the only option), but simply hearing “you need to save more” is clearly not working.

There are certain things you just have to give up to boost your retirement budget (but lattes may not be one of them):

  1. Procrastinating: the longer you think about saving, the bigger the opportunity missed. The best thing you can do for your retirement savings is to get started. Give up procrastinating and just do it. Time and the magic of compound interest are on your side.
  2. Trying to keep up: Saving may not be all about self-denial but if you must have everything you will pay for it later. Make a list of the things you’re passionate about – travel, music, looking after family members – and prioritize those over things you care less about (yes – it might be that morning latte, but maybe it’s cable, or new clothes). Learn to say no to outings you can’t afford and save up for the ones you’d hate to miss. It’s all about balance.
  3. Your ego: The average investor underperforms the fund they invest in by half because they make investing mistakes, like trying to time the market (according to a report by Dalbar). Overconfidence bias is a trap for investors who think they can predict the next trend, or pre-empt the next market move. Investing in a diversified portfolio, and letting it marinate, is a tried and tested approach.
  4. Your reliance on willpower: the belief that weakness is the cause of all investing evils is a myth. Sure, it’s important to get some perspective on what you actually need – but an automated savings plan is far more powerful than relying on willpower alone. Set up auto deposit every paycheck so you pay your investment account first. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
  5. Your need for instant gratification: It’s important to understand the ups and downs of the market. When saving for the long term you will experience some volatility. Sometimes your return will look great; sometimes not so much. The important thing is that it’s there when you need it. Stop looking for instant gratification and understand this is a long-term journey.
  6. Budgets: Stop focusing on “budgets” and instead, think of your investments in terms of “buckets”. Visualize your future self-doing the things you love as motivation to save, and set tangible short-term goals like “Istanbul” or “a photography course”. It’s easier to save for something that excites you rather than focusing on an abstract goal like “saving” (according to the Wall Street Journal).

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