Older man and woman walking along the beach holding handsIf you’re like many Americans today, you know that how much you have squirreled away for retirement is going to make a huge impact on whether or not you’ll be able to enjoy it. More than likely, you’ve heard over and over again that you need to save, and you need to do it now. So…why aren’t you doing it?

Maybe you’re struggling financially, and the slightest scrape from your check into a 401k would be enough to make you feel it. Perhaps you’re planning for a long overdue vacation, or a trip to your local dealership for a new set of wheels. Maybe, you think saving for retirement is something you can do later, rather than right now and you don’t have one specific reason why you’re not doing it.

Though everyone’s reasons for holding off on saving to retire will vary according to each individual’s situation and circumstances, there’s a few that are purely psychological – maybe even subconscious. Continue reading to see if you find yourself identifying with the reasons below, and why they could be costing you your retirement.

“I don’t know what my retirement goals are.”

If you’re not planning on retiring for a while, you may not be thinking far ahead enough to have a concrete goal once you leave the workforce. Many people make the mistake of thinking that at the age of 66, you’ll simply stop working, collect Social Security, and you’ll live happily ever after while traveling the world or enjoying your grandchildren – that’s it, right?

Wrong.

If you really want to have a happy retirement without having to worry about where your next meal will come from or if you can weather an unexpected medical expense, you’ll have to do much more than just stop working. Even if you don’t think you’ll have any elaborate plans to travel the globe or cross items off your bucket list, you’ll need a goal and a strategy just to live off of your earnings and savings comfortably. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported earlier this year that most families have no retirement savings whatsoever, and the savings that other families do have are severely inadequate – scary, isn’t it?

When thinking about your retirement goal, you’ll want to address some questions in order to get your plans on the right track, such as:

  • When will I retire?
  • What kinds of investments would be best for what I want to accomplish?
  • What debt do I need to settle?
  • What scenarios or situations should I prepare for that could hinder my retirement goal?
  • If I have to make compromises in my retirement, will I be able to recover?

“My company doesn’t offer digital enrollment” or “The 401k plan’s website is too difficult to navigate”

Okay, there’s a fair argument here regarding the relative ease with which you should be able to enroll in your company’s 401k plan (offerings will differ depending on your position and employer). A 401k plan adviser shared some startling statistics with UCLA Professor and behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi, with findings that nearly 100% of employees sign up for a 401k plan when attending retirement seminars, but that number drops to 35% when employees are asked to fill out paperwork at home and mail it in. As you may guess or already have experienced, that paperwork often collects dust while the future of a procrastinator’s retirement hangs in the balance of an uncertain future. Your employer may offer or implement an auto-enrollment program in which case, you’d be automatically enrolled with the option to opt out if you absolutely must,

There are countless cumbersome tasks we have to do each day, but if signing up to get an employer matched contribution towards your retirement is something you think you can put off, revisit the idea of being 20 years into the future, with no retirement savings and no means to support yourself without having to work (even if you need to stop working for one reason or another) – it’s a possible outcome that you won’t want to come to fruition.

The 401k industry is in the process of restructuring its approach to getting employees to enroll but until there are more easily accessible ways to sign up for your employer’s plan, if you don’t have the option of digitally enrolling or auto-enrollment with your employer, it may be in your best interest to take a day to sit down, dust off that 401k plan paperwork, and ensure that you’ll have savings when it comes time to leave the workforce.

“I know I have some options regarding 401k investment, but they’re confusing and I don’t know where to start”

If you’ve looked through your employer’s 401k plan information or researched what options may be available and felt overwhelmed, you’re not alone. According to a report written by Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania professors Donald B. Keim and Olivia S. Mitchell earlier this year, there’s just simply too many options for most folks to sift through.

“Too many choices may create confusion, resulting in poorly informed consumer decisions,” the report notes.

It’s not a surprise that many workers find the investment options presented to them by their employers to be lacking in an accompaniment of easy to digest information; simplifying the process of 401k participation has been a slow and arduous process. You may even find yourself working for a company that offers “education” on the available 401k options only to be met with a short seminar that’s only a basic overview of your company’s 401k plan(s) that you may or may not be able to attend, or brochures and materials that really don’t address more complex questions you may have.

When valuable information on saving for retirement isn’t readily available or isn’t comprehensive enough, confidence in making financial decisions is notoriously low, as is highlighted by findings by digital advice provider Betterment, which found that surveyed plan participants are overwhelmingly misinformed regarding their 401k plan fees, and what their contingencies are.

Still, you can arm yourself by researching your investment options by using the most prevalent resource of our time – the internet of course, and by consulting with an expert or adviser while the industry continues to work towards “robo-advisory” and automated processes – the most important factor is that you seek to be informed!

“I need X, Y, or Z and I need it now, more than I need to save for retirement. I can do that later”

If you’re struggling financially, or you can’t justify putting a percentage of your check away for retirement savings, you’re one of many people in the same boat country-wide. However, even just a 1% contribution with a 1% increase each year would be better than not saving for your retirement! You’ll have to contribute a certain amount per check to get the maximum employer match (say, for example, 6%) but it’s something that you can work towards with time if you can’t afford it in the present.

One common mistake that many people make much too often is cashing out what 401k contributions they do have in times of emergency or in pursuit of something they consider significant enough to justify the 401k withdrawal. Many who borrow against their 401k before the age of 55 often don’t realize there will be a hefty 10% penalty tax for withdrawing, and a 20% income taxation that will result in only receiving 70% of their contributions. If you’re not in a position to be able to pay back the loan that you take out of your 401k, your retirement savings may never be what they once were, or could take longer to replenish.

If you haven’t taken a single step towards building retirement savings by enrolling in your employer sponsored retirement plan or by researching what other retirement solutions you may have at your disposal, know that it is never too late to start. While the temptation of being able to put down money on a house or buy a new car may seem irresistible, don’t forget that what you’re willing to sacrifice now may inevitably come back around to bite you and your retirement savings beneficiaries (your spouse and/or family) in the future.

While everyone’s mileage may vary when it comes to their definition of retirement and good living, it’s important to remember that what will make your retirement the most enjoyable is knowing that you’re able to do it, and do it comfortably – without savings, the likelihood of a happy retirement becomes less likely. Whenever possible, in whatever way is best for your retirement needs and goals, do something your future self will thank you for – save!

Get more retirement news and tips from AmeriLife

Older man and woman walking along the beach holding handsIf you’re like many Americans today, you know that how much you have squirreled away for retirement is going to make a huge impact on whether or not you’ll be able to enjoy it. More than likely, you’ve heard over and over again that you need to save, and you need to do it now. So…why aren’t you doing it?

Maybe you’re struggling financially, and the slightest scrape from your check into a 401k would be enough to make you feel it. Perhaps you’re planning for a long overdue vacation, or a trip to your local dealership for a new set of wheels. Maybe, you think saving for retirement is something you can do later, rather than right now and you don’t have one specific reason why you’re not doing it.

Though everyone’s reasons for holding off on saving to retire will vary according to each individual’s situation and circumstances, there’s a few that are purely psychological – maybe even subconscious. Continue reading to see if you find yourself identifying with the reasons below, and why they could be costing you your retirement.

“I don’t know what my retirement goals are.”

If you’re not planning on retiring for a while, you may not be thinking far ahead enough to have a concrete goal once you leave the workforce. Many people make the mistake of thinking that at the age of 66, you’ll simply stop working, collect Social Security, and you’ll live happily ever after while traveling the world or enjoying your grandchildren – that’s it, right?

Wrong.

If you really want to have a happy retirement without having to worry about where your next meal will come from or if you can weather an unexpected medical expense, you’ll have to do much more than just stop working. Even if you don’t think you’ll have any elaborate plans to travel the globe or cross items off your bucket list, you’ll need a goal and a strategy just to live off of your earnings and savings comfortably. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported earlier this year that most families have no retirement savings whatsoever, and the savings that other families do have are severely inadequate – scary, isn’t it?

When thinking about your retirement goal, you’ll want to address some questions in order to get your plans on the right track, such as:

  • When will I retire?
  • What kinds of investments would be best for what I want to accomplish?
  • What debt do I need to settle?
  • What scenarios or situations should I prepare for that could hinder my retirement goal?
  • If I have to make compromises in my retirement, will I be able to recover?

“My company doesn’t offer digital enrollment” or “The 401k plan’s website is too difficult to navigate”

Okay, there’s a fair argument here regarding the relative ease with which you should be able to enroll in your company’s 401k plan (offerings will differ depending on your position and employer). A 401k plan adviser shared some startling statistics with UCLA Professor and behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi, with findings that nearly 100% of employees sign up for a 401k plan when attending retirement seminars, but that number drops to 35% when employees are asked to fill out paperwork at home and mail it in. As you may guess or already have experienced, that paperwork often collects dust while the future of a procrastinator’s retirement hangs in the balance of an uncertain future. Your employer may offer or implement an auto-enrollment program in which case, you’d be automatically enrolled with the option to opt out if you absolutely must,

There are countless cumbersome tasks we have to do each day, but if signing up to get an employer matched contribution towards your retirement is something you think you can put off, revisit the idea of being 20 years into the future, with no retirement savings and no means to support yourself without having to work (even if you need to stop working for one reason or another) – it’s a possible outcome that you won’t want to come to fruition.

The 401k industry is in the process of restructuring its approach to getting employees to enroll but until there are more easily accessible ways to sign up for your employer’s plan, if you don’t have the option of digitally enrolling or auto-enrollment with your employer, it may be in your best interest to take a day to sit down, dust off that 401k plan paperwork, and ensure that you’ll have savings when it comes time to leave the workforce.

“I know I have some options regarding 401k investment, but they’re confusing and I don’t know where to start”

If you’ve looked through your employer’s 401k plan information or researched what options may be available and felt overwhelmed, you’re not alone. According to a report written by Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania professors Donald B. Keim and Olivia S. Mitchell earlier this year, there’s just simply too many options for most folks to sift through.

“Too many choices may create confusion, resulting in poorly informed consumer decisions,” the report notes.

It’s not a surprise that many workers find the investment options presented to them by their employers to be lacking in an accompaniment of easy to digest information; simplifying the process of 401k participation has been a slow and arduous process. You may even find yourself working for a company that offers “education” on the available 401k options only to be met with a short seminar that’s only a basic overview of your company’s 401k plan(s) that you may or may not be able to attend, or brochures and materials that really don’t address more complex questions you may have.

When valuable information on saving for retirement isn’t readily available or isn’t comprehensive enough, confidence in making financial decisions is notoriously low, as is highlighted by findings by digital advice provider Betterment, which found that surveyed plan participants are overwhelmingly misinformed regarding their 401k plan fees, and what their contingencies are.

Still, you can arm yourself by researching your investment options by using the most prevalent resource of our time – the internet of course, and by consulting with an expert or adviser while the industry continues to work towards “robo-advisory” and automated processes – the most important factor is that you seek to be informed!

“I need X, Y, or Z and I need it now, more than I need to save for retirement. I can do that later”

If you’re struggling financially, or you can’t justify putting a percentage of your check away for retirement savings, you’re one of many people in the same boat country-wide. However, even just a 1% contribution with a 1% increase each year would be better than not saving for your retirement! You’ll have to contribute a certain amount per check to get the maximum employer match (say, for example, 6%) but it’s something that you can work towards with time if you can’t afford it in the present.

One common mistake that many people make much too often is cashing out what 401k contributions they do have in times of emergency or in pursuit of something they consider significant enough to justify the 401k withdrawal. Many who borrow against their 401k before the age of 55 often don’t realize there will be a hefty 10% penalty tax for withdrawing, and a 20% income taxation that will result in only receiving 70% of their contributions. If you’re not in a position to be able to pay back the loan that you take out of your 401k, your retirement savings may never be what they once were, or could take longer to replenish.

If you haven’t taken a single step towards building retirement savings by enrolling in your employer sponsored retirement plan or by researching what other retirement solutions you may have at your disposal, know that it is never too late to start. While the temptation of being able to put down money on a house or buy a new car may seem irresistible, don’t forget that what you’re willing to sacrifice now may inevitably come back around to bite you and your retirement savings beneficiaries (your spouse and/or family) in the future.

While everyone’s mileage may vary when it comes to their definition of retirement and good living, it’s important to remember that what will make your retirement the most enjoyable is knowing that you’re able to do it, and do it comfortably – without savings, the likelihood of a happy retirement becomes less likely. Whenever possible, in whatever way is best for your retirement needs and goals, do something your future self will thank you for – save!

Get more retirement news and tips from AmeriLife

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