Nearly three in 10 American adults say they’re not at all confident they’re saving enough for retirement, survey says.

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When it comes to planning for retirement, many Americans don’t know where to begin. According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, only six out of 10 workers in the U.S. are actually planning for retirement. In addition, research from NFCC’s 2018 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, sponsored by BECU, revealed that nearly three in 10 American adults say they’re not at all confident they’re saving enough for retirement.

Stacey Black, BECU
Stacey Black, BECU

If you’re someone who stresses about planning for retirement, you’re not alone. In fact, the most common personal finance concern is retiring without having enough money set aside, especially for those nearing retirement age. “But, if you think ahead and make a real retirement plan now, it can help you get ahead of this particular financial stressor,” says BECU Financial Educator Stacey Black. “Saving for retirement is more than just putting aside some of your paycheck every month. Luckily, there are some simple steps that you can take today to make sure you have saved enough to retire down the road.”

Set your goal and stick with it

The first step to retirement planning is to set your retirement savings goal. The key to making sure you reach it? “Set plenty of benchmarks along the way,” says Black. “That means identifying a specific amount each year that you are trying to reach in order to hit your retirement goal. If you need help determining specific goals, meeting with a financial advisor is a good place to start.”

However, when it comes to saving for retirement, don’t feel like you can’t live your life either. “Don’t be afraid to change your financial goals when necessary,” says Black. “For instance, if you’re getting married or buying a home one year, you may need to make an adjustment to your savings goal; just be sure you plan to get back on track when you can.”

Take advantage of saving tools

Make sure you don’t miss out on free money. Many employers offer a matching program of some kind for employees who are trying to save for retirement.  Depending on the policy terms, your contributions could be matched by your employer in a variety of ways—the most common of these is matching the percentage of employee contributions through a 401(k) program.  “If your employer offers such a program, be sure to opt in—and if possible, max out,” says Black. “This could be a great boost to your savings goals and the more money you put away earlier, the more years it will have to grow.”

When deciding how much of your income to contribute to your 401(k), Black also suggests readjusting for yearly income changes. “If you begin with a contribution of 10 percent, for example, consider increasing the contribution to 11 percent when you get a raise.” She continues, “Increasing your 401(k) contribution with each raise shouldn’t be too difficult since you’re already accustomed to that particular income. However, if you’re concerned about putting too much aside, just remember that if you’re saving 15 percent of your income now, while earning a paycheck, you could easily live on 85 percent of your income in retirement.”

Another easy way to add to your investment plan? Set up an automatic investment. Just like a direct deposit that automatically deposits into your savings account, you can contribute a set dollar amount from any of your accounts each month or quarter into an IRA or investment account. “This ensures you don’t miss any contributions or stress about how much to set aside each month or quarter,” says Black.

Save, save and save some more

At the same time, as with any savings plan, it’s always a good idea to see where you may be able to cut back in your budget in order to put more into savings. “Start by chipping away at wasteful habits,” says Black. “That might mean cutting back on expensive dinners, or just canceling that gym membership you never use.” This is especially important when you think about retirement, since the money you save now can really help you out later. “Don’t think about it as depriving yourself,” Black says, “but as redirecting funds so they can be put towards a better cause.”

As a member-owned credit union, BECU is focused on helping increase the financial health of its members and communities through better rates, fewer fees, community partnerships and financial education.