Halloween treats are fun. But how about treating yourself to something that will last longer than a bag of candy–like a bigger retirement savings balance. Wondering where to start? We asked over 1,000 401(k) investors in our DC Pulse Survey. Here are their top retirement saving tips—and advice on how to make them your own.
1. Don’t wait until it’s raining to fix the roof.
Confidence in retirement savings is up 64% compared to last year’s survey, in part, because recent investment performance has been relatively strong. The trouble is, industry forecasts suggest that future returns may be lower than they’ve been previously.
If this comes as a shock, you’re not alone—65% of the investors we surveyed hadn’t heard of the forecast. However, almost 15% of our respondents have already started preparing for lower returns. Their best tip? Start saving more now. Time is your greatest asset to compound returns, helping you make up for the possibility of lower returns.
2. Use it or lose it: Take advantage of all available resources.
With age comes wisdom, and better retirement savings habits. We found that baby boomers are 43% more likely than gen x or millennials to take advantage of retirement planning tools, like income calculators. But, regardless of what generational bucket you fall into, you should use every tool at your disposal—especially given the prospect of lower returns.
3. Act your age.
Sixty may be the new forty, but acting your age is still valid when it comes to investment allocation. In fact, our survey found that, compared to those nearing retirement, younger investors are more comfortable with aggressive growth strategies, even if that means they could lose money when the market declines. Baby boomers, on the other hand, were more likely to prefer conservative growth, with smaller returns but less chance of losing money.
Target date funds seek to do just that. They remove some of the guesswork of investing by offering a diversified mix of stocks and bonds that rebalance over time.
4. Don’t just meet the match—beat it.
Most employers will match a portion of your retirement savings on a dollar-for-dollar basis, typically up to the first 3% to 5% of your contribution. If your plan offers this, odds are you’ve heard that you should contribute enough to get the full company match. It’s a rule of thumb that women seem to have latched onto: We found that women are 21% more likely than men to meet their company match.
It’s a big step toward retirement readiness. But for men and women alike, deferring even 5% of your pay is not likely to reach your retirement savings goal. If you can’t beat the match from day one, see if your plan offers auto-escalation, which will increase your contribution rate annually. Your future self will thank you.
For those already on the right track—keep up the good work. And for those of us who may be behind the curve, remember the race is far from over. There are simple steps you can take today to close the gap.