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08/14/2015 07:37 am ET

7 Ways To Save For Retirement Even If You're Broke

If you are one of the many who don't have enough saved for retirement, don't despair.
Oko_SwanOmurphy via Getty Images

 

The numbers aren't pretty: More than a third of Americans haven't saved a nickel for retirement. About 36 percent of workers have less than $1,000 in savings and investments that could be used for retirement, not counting their primary residence or defined benefits plans such as traditional pensions, and 60 percent of workers have less than $25,000, according to the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates.

So basically what are you supposed to do if you are broke, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and are staring down the double barrels at retirement without adequate savings? Here are 7 suggestions from Jamie Kalamarides, head of Institutional Investment Solutions at Prudential Retirement.

1. The third paycheck.

Many people are paid bi-weekly, meaning they get 26 paychecks per calendar year. During two months of the year, they get three checks instead of two. "Save the third paycheck in those two months and you will have saved 1/12 of your salary each year that you can contribute to your retirement," said Kalamarides. Many financial planners suggest socking away between 10 percent and 15 percent of your income for retirement, starting in your 20s. That's just a general guideline though and if you are post-50, the rule is more like "every cent you can."

2. Stop using check-cashing services.

 These services often charge considerable fees. If you are eligible, join a credit union instead. A household with a net income of $20,000 a year can save as much as $1,200 annually in check-cashing fees, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve. 

"Credit unions are a terrific way for low- and moderate-income families to gain access to the banking system," said Kalamarides. He suggests finding one on the Credit Union Locator or the National Credit Union Administration

3. Contribute to your 401(k) or ROTH IRA to claim the Saver's Credit.

If you are over 18, not a student, and not claimed as a dependent on anyone else's tax return, you are eligible to claim the Saver's Credit. The amount of the credit is up to 50 percent of your retirement plan or IRA contributions up to $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly), depending on your adjusted gross income. The IRS' website offers this example of how it works: Jill, who works at a retail store, is married and earned $30,000 in 2014. Jill’s husband was unemployed in 2014 and didn’t have any earnings. Jill contributed $1,000 to her IRA in 2014. After deducting her IRA contribution, the adjusted gross income shown on her joint return is $29,000. Jill may claim a 50% credit, $500, for her $1,000 IRA contribution

"The Saver's Credit is essentially the government matching your IRA or 401(k) savings," says Kalamarides. "If you contribute to a 401(k) through work, you may also be eligible for an employer match. A match is like a guaranteed return -- when was the last time you heard someone earning 50 percent returns on their investment?"

4. Grab your friends and family and join a Lending Circle.

 A Lending Circle is a form of peer-to-peer finance -- a way to save money and to help build up credit. Participants in this age-old technique can be found in states from Massachusetts to California, noted NerdWallet.com.

It works something like this: The organization brings together about 10 low- and moderate- income individuals to join a circle. Lending circles help participants raise capital for various expenses: car down payments, debts and small business investments, among other things. As Kalamarides told Huff/Post: "If you and five friends save $100 per month, in 12 months the group will have accumulated $7,200, which will entitle you to your share of the funds at the end of the year -- $1,200, which you can use to save for retirement.   

5. Sign up for your company's 401(k) and if it doesn't have one, sign up for myRA.

There are no start-up or enrollment costs or fees charged for the maintenance of the account. myRA has no minimum contribution requirement, so savers can contribute the amount that best fits their budget -- plus the investment in a myRA is backed by the United States Treasury and the account carries no risk of losing money. It was developed for workers who don't have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or lack options to save for retirement. In some cases, they don’t have enough money saved to meet a minimum for opening an investment account. 

6. Pay yourself first.

Set aside a portion of your income to save before you do anything else. Retirement savings over college savings. Retirement savings over trip to Europe savings. Retirement savings over the new car, bigger house, boat, or kitchen remodel. The easiest way to do this is have a system in place for automatic paycheck deductions, said Kalamarides.

7. Avail yourself of company or community-offered commuter discounts.

 At first blush, you may ask yourself, "Self, why a commuter discount over, say, clipping grocery coupons?" Here's the answer:

"Commuter discounts are a reliable way to be frugal on a necessary monthly expense," Kalamarides explains. "Better than coupons -- which often actually encourage you to buy more.  Savings can be up to 10 percent and are often pre-tax."

 

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