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January 3, 2019

You know that most New Year’s resolutions have a snowball’s chance of lasting until spring. But if your goal is saving more for retirement, there’s a simple way to make your resolution stick.

All it takes is a little effort upfront. “The easiest way to build savings is to make it automatic,” says Paul Fenner, a certified financial planner in Commerce Township, Mich.

That means signing up for your company’s 401(k) plan, if you haven’t already, and setting a percentage of your salary to be automatically dumped into it each pay period. For 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to your 401(k), 403(b), federal Thrift Savings Plan, and most 457 plans, with an additional $6,000 in “catch-up” contributions allowed for savers ages 50 and over.

If that sounds like an impossible amount, at least contribute enough to get your company match, if you have one, says David Geibel, managing director of Univest Wealth Management in King of Prussia, Pa.

And if your retirement plans offers an auto-escalation feature (and most large employer plans do) you can have your contribution amount increased each year on a fixed schedule without lifting a finger. You won’t likely notice the difference in your paycheck between setting aside, say, 10% versus 11% of your pay, but an annual, incremental boost will add up over a lifetime of contributions.

If you don’t have access to a 401(k) at work, set up an IRA at a brokerage firm and automatically transfer a certain amount into it each month from your checking or savings account. For 2019, the IRS raised the contribution limits for IRAs to $6,000 from $5,500 (the first increase since 2013), with an additional $1,000 allowed for savers ages 50 and over. You can open up an IRA online on a brokerage website in about 15 minutes. Self-employed people can open up a SEP IRA, which comes with much higher contribution limits of up to $56,000 for 2019.

Think of your automated retirement savings like a subscription service for the future you, Geibel says: “Your razor blades come every month, why not do it to your investments?”

 

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