Achieving your future retirement goals means scrutinizing how you typically manage your finances on a daily basis. If you envision your retirement filled with exotic travel, ask yourself, how are you getting around now? For example, if you live in a city, do you walk? Use public transit? Or splurge on Uber?
Or, maybe you prefer the creature comforts of home, planning to indulge in amenities such as a refrigerated wine cabinet or espresso machine. If this sounds relaxing, then how often are you going to a premium coffee shop right now to get a latte? Daily? Hourly?
Unconscious spending on small items—commonly referred to as the “latte factor” --can actually be undermining your long-term goals. While retirement means different things to different people, the one thing everyone can agree on is having the financial freedom to enjoy the lifestyle they want.
The good news is that it’s never too late to cut back on discretionary spending and refocus those savings towards investing for your future. And, getting started on that path is easier than you might think.
Here are a few suggestions for trimming expenses:
- Create a budget—Start by determining your monthly cash reserve—or lack thereof. Calculate your total income--including salary, side jobs, pensions, marital support, etc. Compile a list of your monthly bills and other expenses. Subtract the total expenses from your income. This will help you determine if you are spending within or beyond your means, and where to start cutting.
- Limit purchases of non-essential items—Besides beverages, how often do you order take out or go to restaurants rather than brown bagging it? Do you buy books or borrow from the local library? What may seem like minimal costs throughout any given day can add up fast to major expenditures over the course of a month or year.
- Review and trim fat within monthly bills (i.e. cable/satellite, phone, electricity)—Cable/satellite, phone and electric bills are natural places to easily cut back. Even with many more recreational activities occurring in our living rooms today, consider what you consume and where (i.e. computer, television). How many streaming services do you have? How many channels do you watch? How do you use your mobile device? Do your activities, such as texting and consuming content, require large and costly data packages? Perhaps it’s time to change providers or renegotiate your service contract.
Nowadays, more than half the states in the country provide alternative choices for residents to get their power source.
With the money saved by curtailing discretionary spending, you can use those funds to help you build towards a financially secure future. Consider some of the following:
- Pay down debts (i.e. credit cards, student loans)—Interest on debts frequently can add up to be more costly over time than the original debt itself. The faster you can eliminate them, the better. If you’re someone who pays just the minimum balance each month, this debt calculator can help you figure out ways to speed up the process.
- Increase contributions in tax-deferred funds—Do you participate in a 401(k), 403(b), 457 (b) or another savings plan? If you don’t, you should consider enrolling in one. Tax-deferred plans are deducted directly from your salary before your employer withholds income tax—out of sight, out of mind. For 2021, you can contribute up to $19,500 and an extra $6,500 if you are 50 and older.
- Life insurance — A permanent life insurance policy not only provides death benefit protection for your beneficiaries , but it can provide the potential for tax-deferred cash value growth over time and allow you to access your funds through loans and withdrawals for things such are retirement or long-term care. Keep in mind, however, that loans and withdrawals from a life insurance policy reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit and increase the chance that the policy may lapse.If the policy lapses, matures, is surrendered or becomes a modified endowment, the loan or withdrawal balance at such time would generally be viewed as distributed and taxable under the general rules for distributions of policy cash values.
Taking small steps now can lead to big impacts down the road—and don’t you deserve to enjoy the future of your dreams?