Overcoming inertia to save for retirement

Juggling Jerry: Several financial commitments
Juggling (finances) Jerry © ChameleonsEye/

Pay yourself first.

"Juggling Jerry" has heard that before, but what about the credit cards, the children's college education and those vacation plans?

When it comes to juggling finances, we often put our futures dead last. "I can tell you story after story of people who blew their chance to save for retirement," says Tignanelli.

It's time to reprioritize.

Set a goal. Just 46 percent of workers have attempted to calculate how much they will need for retirement, according to the latest Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, or EBRI. But without a goal, it's impossible to know how much to save -- and what's left over for other things. Set a target.

Kill the bills. Debts cost more than what you're likely to earn with savings or investments. Experts generally agree it's important to be debt-free before investing. The exception: If you have a 401(k) or 403(b), save enough to qualify for matching funds as you pay off bills. "You don't want to leave free money," says Philip Lee, a wealth manager at Modera Wealth Management in Boston.

Maximize savings. If you have catching up to do, fund up to the maximum allowable limits. In 2014, that's up to $17,500 in a 401(k), plus another $5,500 if you're 50 or older.

Now juggle. Once you're on track for retirement, you can start saving for your kids' college and that fun vacation.


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