Saving For Retirement Is The Most Stressful Financial Issue For Adults, Survey Finds, So Here's How To Overcome It
When it comes to money and finances, what stresses you out the most? According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch's 2017 Workplace Benefit Report, they found out the most stressful financial issue for adults. The good news? There are ways to overcome it. I know, you may be thinking: but all financial issues are stressful. I hear you. However, this one was the primary one, the report found — that the #1 financial issue employees struggle with is saving for retirement, including 43 percent of millennials. On top of which, millennials also said they spend an average of four hours a week poring over their personal finances at work, and 67 percent said their financial stress interferes with their ability to focus and be productive at work. Can you relate? I doubt I'm the only one...
But back to retirement. If someone asked you right now how much you have set aside for retirement, would you be able to answer them? Even if you have none to very little, it's not too late to start.
Sylvie Feist, Director of Financial Guidance Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has some ideas. "Find the cash," she tells Bustle. "If it's tough to start saving because you may feel like you're barely managing your rent, or possibly dealing with student loan payments, take a close look at your monthly spending habits and think about ways to free up cash and/or save on the things you do spend your money on. Cutting down on small luxuries can add up to big savings when spread across a year, or more."
After all, from eating food out to those items you may buy that you don't need, many people waste money when they could save those funds for the future instead. Below are more ways to save for retirement, because the struggle is real and can cost you — figuratively and literally.
1. Automate Your Savings
You may hear about automating your money all the time, and with good reason. It's a lot easier to have the money removed from your account (or paycheck) before you see it. "Sending a portion of your paycheck directly into an employer-sponsored retirement account can remove spending temptation and may help you stick to your savings goals," says Feist. "It's usually easy to do if you enroll in a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k)."
2. Pay Down Debt(s)
I know the idea of paying down your debt(s) may seem overwhelming, but like anything else, it's best done in small increments — if you can.
"Eliminating your debt, especially the high-interest consumer debt with no tax benefits, makes it easier to reach your savings goals," Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Board Chair and President of the Charles Schwab Foundation, tells Bustle. "If you're carrying a balance on your credit cards or other high-interest loans, create a spending budget and look for ways to cut back on non-essential expenses. Use that extra cash to pay down those expensive debts until you're down to zero. A handy tip to help manage debt is the 28/36 debt rule: 1) No more than 28 percent of your pre-tax household income should go toward servicing home debt, such as your mortgage payment, home insurance, and property taxes; 2) No more than 36 percent of your income should go toward all debt, including credit cards and car loans."
3. Reach For The Match
Some employers will match your contributions, which is a huge win-win for you both. "If your employer offers a retirement plan that matches your contributions, consider stretching your contribution to at least enough to earn the full matching amount," says Feist. "That match is like getting an instant return on your investment and like getting extra pay from your employer."
4. Try Out The "Minus 10 Percent" Rule
Even if you're more into planning what festival to attend next versus thinking about retirement, the latter is necessary regardless. "Despite retirement seeming far-off, your 20s is the prime time to start saving and planning for retirement — thanks to compound interest," says Schwab-Pomerantz. "Starting to sock money away in a 401(k) is key. If you start investing in your 20s, you can end up with a pretty sizable nest egg by saving just 10-15 percent of your annual salary during your working years. However, if you delay saving, that percentage will need to go up, possibly in a big way. Consider the 'minus 10 percent rule' — if you're in your 20s and you put aside at least 10 percent, you should have a relatively comfortable retirement by age 65. If you wait until your 30s, you have to save 15 to 20 percent of your income. And in your 40s, you have to save 30 percent. According to Schwab's Modern Wealth Index (MWI) only 16 percent of millennials contribute the maximum to their 401(k)."
5. Don't Just Save — Invest
Even if you know nothing about investing, it's OK (and you're also not alone). The fact of the matter is, it's easier than you may think, especially if you get a financial advisor to help you along. "Saving is only part of the equation, investing is the other," says Schwab-Pomerantz. "Preparing for retirement is learning to make the most of your money, and that means investing. Studies have shown women are more risk averse than men when it comes to the stock market. Long-term, that can put women at a real disadvantage. You ideally want a diversified stock portfolio that's positioned for growth, which translates into taking a bit more risk."
Schwab-Pomerantz also suggests using investing technology as a resource. "You want to invest your money in a smart, diverse, and low-cost way to get the most out of your savings. However, navigating your investment strategy on your own can be even more challenging, so fortunately, with today's technology, you don't have to do it alone."
7. Create A Financial Plan
You may have a budget you adhere to every day, week, or month, but do you have a financial plan overall? "To really get on top of your finances, you should have a written financial plan," says Schwab-Pomerantz. "A Schwab study [Women's Initiative Survey, 2016] on women's confidence levels in managing their finances indicated that women with a written financial plan were significantly more confident — and less likely to lose sleep over their finances — than women without a plan."
8. Use Your Employer's Financial Wellness Program
You may not realize it, but your employer could have financial help and advice available to you. Yes, it may seem like going to the guidance counselor in high school — you know they're there, but you don't want to stop by their office (even though it could benefit your future). When it comes to your financial health, it's best to explore the financial wellness programs at your work, or even start one up yourself. "When it comes to retirement, millennials are most likely to feel the burden of juggling near-term priorities (i.e., student debt, budgeting) while saving for long-term goals for the first time," says Feist. "These combined stressors underscore the role that employers can play in supporting millennials with holistic financial wellness programs that help them build a solid financial foundation/literacy."
9. Try Spending Even $5 Less A Day
Like Feist says above, the way you spend your money is key to how much you can save. Sure, it'll take some discipline, and maybe more meals cooked at home versus eaten out, but it may be doable and your future self will thank you. Schwab-Pomerantz agrees with Feist's point. "Nearly half of American adults can't cover a $400 emergency expense, let alone save for retirement," says Schwab-Pomerantz. "If you don't know what you're spending, you can't effectively save. If you need to cut back, focus on the extras, such as dining out or entertainment. Even small changes in your spending habits can make a big difference. Think about it — spend just $5 a day less on lunches or coffee and you could save over $1,800 a year. Try this to get a clear picture:
- Track your spending for 30 days
- Divide your expenses into two categories: nondiscretionary and discretionary
- Put savings at the top of your nondiscretionary expense list
- Compare your projected expenses to your actual cash outlay
- If you spend less than projected in one area, put the extra money toward your savings."
10. Change Your Money Mindset
You may hear finance experts say that a lot of money management is about your attitude toward money, and if you think about it, it's true. "Think differently," says Schwab-Pomerantz. "So often, as soon as we get some extra cash, we think about how we want to spend it. Now's the time to change that thinking — instead of spending: try saving all or at least a portion of any annual salary increase; if you get an annual bonus, earmark part of it for retirement; and invest any tax refunds into your IRA."
There you have it — how to make the most financially stressful situation, saving for retirement, less stressful. Even if you do just a few of the above, I'll bet you'll have more saved than you did before.