Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 Bad Habits Sabotaging Your Retirement Plans

The retirement goal for most people is to have enough money to continue their previous standard of living without working. Some retirees will also increase their living expenses a notch or two by taking trips and spending more time with family and friends. If your goal is to leave the workforce, then make sure you don't have any of these bad financial habits. Left unchecked, these financial choices can quickly derail your retirement plans.

Too much debt. Borrowing money is the number one killer of retirement plans. Debt has its uses, such as buying a house and paying for college tuition. But debt should not be used as a crutch to finance a lifestyle you can't afford. Debt should be reserved for big ticket items with the intent of repaying it as quickly as possible.

Making minimum loan payments. Paying the minimum credit card payment each month, which is typically only 2 to 5 percent of the total amount borrowed, will often stretch your loan to 10 years or more and could cost you thousands of dollars in interest. A better way to repay credit cards is to transfer your balance to a 0 percent interest credit card and pay as much as you can afford each month. The same strategy applies to mortgage payments. Just adding $50 a month to your mortgage payment on a $200,000 mortgage will save over 3 years of payments and $37,000 in interest. Paying an extra $100 per month shaves off almost 6 years of payments and saves you over $63,000 in interest payments.

Champagne taste on a beer income. Living beyond your means is a quick way to destroy your chances of a comfortable retirement. But you don't have to give up everything you enjoy. You should make an attempt to live within a reasonable budget. Try scaling back on entertainment expenses. For example, eat out less frequently or spend $10 per month on BlockBuster or Netflix instead of seeing a new release at the theater every week. Little sacrifices can save you hundreds of dollars per month and thousands of dollars per year. This money can be better used for your investments.

Being satisfied with low income. Earning more money is a great way to turbocharge your retirement savings. There are many ways to earn more money. It may be as simple as doing some research regarding comparable salaries and presenting a case for a raise to your manager. You may also be able to achieve a raise by taking on additional duties, working toward a promotion, or earning professional certifications. If those steps don't work, shop your resume around and look for a new job. Sometimes you have to leave your current position to earn more money. Still no luck? Try working on the side by offering consulting services or performing freelance work. You can also go back to school. Here are some of the highest paying college degrees.

Putting your children before yourself. College tuition is rising at an incredible rate and saving for your child's college tuition is a wonderful gift. But are you doing it at your own expense? We all want our children to be more successful than we are, but that doesn't mean we need to sabotage our retirement plans to make it happen. The cold hard truth is that your child can borrow his way through college, but you cannot borrow your way through retirement. Fund your retirement accounts first, then save for your child's college tuition.

You don't need to make retirement planning your number one goal in life, but you still need to think about tomorrow. A little planning and sacrifice now can go a long way toward a fulfilling retirement.

U.S.News - Ryan Guina, On Tuesday July 13, 2010, 4:47 pm EDT

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