Saving for Retirement During a Slow Economy
March 29th, 2013 by Chandra Orr

In the current economy, finding spare funds for retirement investing and savings may be a challenge, but it’s more important than ever to keep plugging away at that nest egg.

Photo by Catherine Lane

Photo by Catherine Lane

“If anything, the financial downturn of the past few years has made investors recognize the importance of diligently saving for retirement,” says certified financial planner David Walters. “People no longer view their homes as piggy banks and have refocused on traditional savings.”

The goal is to buy low and sell high. Markets may be volatile in the short term, but time is on your side.

“Time is an investor’s best friend,” David explains. “Compound growth is a powerful tool, and even saving a little now, when times are tough, will make a big difference as those savings are allowed to grow over a longer time horizon.”

The question is, how do you save if your budget already is stretched to the max? It takes diligence and discipline, but even those living paycheck to paycheck can find small ways to stash away money.

Adjust Your Expectations

It may be time for a reality check. In general, Americans have less money to invest and receive lower earnings on those investments than they did 10 years ago.

“Get over the old stuff,” advises another certified financial planner, Chris Cooper. “The 1990s aren’t coming back any time soon. Single-digit returns are the norm now.”

That means you probably won’t make millions on your investments or live out your golden years in luxury, but you still can have a comfortable retirement.Establish realistic expectations and you will be better prepared psychologically to adjust your current lifestyle and budget so you can afford to save more.

Live as if You are Already Retired

Retirees typically live on a fixed income, which means cutting back on nonessentials and sticking to a budget. Give it a go now to free up extra funds for later.

“We must lower our standard of living to a more realistic one,” Chris says. “Lower your current lifestyle to what you will be living on in retirement. Then you can save and invest for the future.”

Uncover the drains on your disposable income. Do you really need the latest high-tech gadget? Do you spend a lot on eating out? Maybe you can cut back on your clothing expenditures. Chances are you can funnel some of that money into your nest egg.

“Run your household like a business,” says Ornella Grosz, author of “Moneylicious: A Financial Clue for Generation Y.”
“No matter the economic environment, following the outflow of your money is critical,” Ornella says. “You will discover where you expend your hard-earned dollars and recognize where you can cut your spending.”

Invest Whatever You Can

According to conventional wisdom, you should set aside 10 percent of income for retirement, but even a little bit helps.
“Even if you can contribute only a small amount of money, it’s important that you continue,” Ornella says. “As your financial circumstance improves, you will be in a better position to contribute a higher amount to your retirement investments.”

Thanks to compound interest, slow and steady wins the race. But you must be diligent in your savings.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Portfolio

Review and rebalance your investments once a year, and don’t be afraid to take some risks.

“Don’t be too conservative with your investments if you have more than 10 years to invest,” Ornella says. “Having a couple of decades to invest allows you to take advantage of time and compound interest.”

Keep an eye on investing costs, as well. Broker fees are common, but the money you spend on investing is money you could be putting into your nest egg.

“If you want your contributions to go even further toward retirement, then choose investments with low costs, such as index funds,” Ornella says. “Costs do matter. Costs can decrease your investment returns and increase your losses.”

In other words, what you get to keep is just as important as what you make.