Saving for retirement: 10 rules for success

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Saving for retirement doesn't have to be complicated. There are some simple rules to help you meet your retirement saving needs without breaking the bank.

1. Debt. The more debt you have, the harder it is to save. Work on reducing your debt and paying off loans, and you'll have more money to save for retirement. Split the total amount you are able to save, so that some goes toward your debt. Even an extra $5 a week could head off accruing interest that might save you thousands in the long run. A debt reduction calculator can show just how much an extra $5 can save you.

2. Time is your friend. The earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. You can begin any time and with any amount, but those who wait until later in life often wish they hadn't.

3. Reduce your spending. Reducing monthly costs frees up more money to pay off debt and save for retirement. Cut down on vending machines at work, clip coupons for groceries, or limit how many times a month you eat out. Reduce your spending wherever you can, it all helps.

4. Make it automatic. The best retirement savings is the kind you don't have to think about. No matter what options you choose, make it automatic with payroll direct deposit or set up an automatic transfer through your bank. Most financial experts suggest that you save 10% -15% of your income, but start with what you can spare. Out of sight, out of mind. Pretty soon you won't miss it at all.

5. Make your money work for you. Many companies offer a 401K match. This is a great opportunity to maximize your savings. By automatically contributing to ensure you are saving as much as possible, you can double your money (or up to your company's matching limit). It's like free money. If you don't have a 401K , you can start with an IRA savings account to utilize the tax benefits that come with an IRA.

6. Be realistic. Start with a reasonable percentage of your income, say 1%, and increase it slowly. Don't risk not meeting your basic living expenses.

7. Stick with the plan. It might seem silly, but if you don't actually save what you plan, it's pointless. That's why it's important to be realistic with your goals.

8. Diversify. If you've been saving for some time and you have a good nest egg, diversify to get the best return from your money. Start looking into mutual funds and stocks to get the best return. These options aren't guaranteed, and there is some risk. Many companies, like Fidelity, offer already developed portfolios and will make suggestions for you based on your needs. Then re-evaluate as you get closer to retirement.

9. Maximize your "extra" cash. Consider taking the amount of any raises, bonuses, or tax returns to pay off debt or put in a 401K, savings account, or mutual fund. Put as much of it away as you can, but don't be afraid to leave some for your monthly budgeted income. Or to buy something you truly need.

10. Educate yourself. You are ultimately responsible for your own financial well being. Research retirement options and educate yourself on what goals you should be aiming for. Learn more about 401Ks, IRAs and other savings options. Check a retirement savings calculator for an idea of how much you need to save based on your current savings and age.

Following these 10 simple strategies for success won't make you a millionaire overnight, but by sticking with these easy steps you'll be saving more efficiently and worry-free in no time.

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