Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, you don't need to earn a lot of money during your career to retire with a lot of money. If you follow a simple set of rules, you can wrap up your time in the workforce with a substantial level of wealth — all without breaking a sweat. Here are some easy guidelines to follow.
1. Start saving from an early age
When it comes to growing retirement wealth, time is your greatest weapon, and that's why you must commit to saving for your senior years from a young age — ideally, from the time you start collecting a steady paycheck. If you're able to part with just $250 a month starting at age 22, and you continue doing so until age 67, you'll end up with a nest egg worth close to $1.2 million. Now that assumes that you invest your money at an average annual 8% return, which we'll talk about next.
2. Invest aggressively
Many people shy away from buying stocks because they worry about losing money. But investing your retirement savings in stocks is a great way to turn a series of smaller contributions into a larger sum over time. We just saw what an 8% average annual return — a reasonable one for a stock-heavy portfolio — could do for a series of $250 contributions over 45 years. If that same portfolio were invested more conservatively at, say, just a 5% average annual return, its ending balance would come in at around $479,000 instead.
3. Avoid debt
The more debt you take on, the more interest you'll pay. And the more money you waste on interest, the less you'll have available to sock away for the future. Now it's common practice to take out a mortgage and a series of auto loans to finance vehicles. But do your best to avoid less healthy debt, like credit cards and even personal loans for non-emergency purposes.
4. Save in a tax-efficient manner
Saving for retirement in a traditional brokerage account will give you more flexibility with your money — you'll get to withdraw it at any time without penalty. But if you save in a more restrictive IRA or 401(k) plan, you'll enjoy tax benefits that help you grow wealth. Traditional IRA and 401(k) contributions go in tax-free, and investment gains in these accounts are tax-deferred. Roth IRAs and 401(k)s don't offer an up-front tax break on contributions, but investment gains are completely tax-free and withdrawals are tax-free as well.
And there you have it — you don't need to earn a six-figure salary throughout your career to amass an impressive pile of cash in time for retirement. Rather, you just need to commit to saving for that goal from a young age, invest your nest egg in stocks for added growth, steer clear of unhealthy, costly debt, and take advantage of tax-friendly savings plans. If you follow these rules, you'll really set yourself up for the retirement of your dreams without having to sacrifice too much along the way.
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