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Tips for Saving for Retirement

June 4th, 2013 Personal Finance

Whether retirement is far away or right around the corner, it's good to have an idea of just how much you should be saving. Advice differs from expert to expert but there are a few common goals and practices.

Types of savings accounts  Most employers offer at least one type of retirement plan, but not all have the same kind. The following are a few of the more common savings options.

Profit sharing plans In these plans, both employees or both employees and employers invest in an account for the employee. A 401(k) is a common profit sharing plan for many companies. For these, employees designate a pre-tax percentage of their paycheck into an account, which the employer may match. The amount that an employer provides often goes up as an employee stays at the same company over a number of years.

Pension This plan is one in which the employer gives out a guaranteed amount to a retired employee. The amount is based on the number of years worked, the average salaries and an added percentage. Some employers will average a certain number of years instead of the entire working time of an employee. In order to get a pension, many employers mandate working for a certain number of years.

Annuities These are similar to pensions but the income that comes from an annuity is taxed like a standard paycheck. Annuities have many options and can be tailored to fit an employee's needs. Some can even be paid out as a lump sum at the time of retirement.

IRA Individual Retirement Accounts are often set up independently of employers. These accounts offer large tax breaks and your investment grows while using the plan. There are two major branches of IRAs: traditional and Roth. The major difference is that with traditional IRAs, you pay tax as you withdraw the money, and the opposite is true of Roth IRAs. Because these accounts are taxed less, they are good places to funnel work bonuses or dividends, but the government does limit the amount you can invest, notes CNN.

Start saving early If you work at a company that supplies a 401(k) or another retirement plan, it's generally a good idea to put in as much money as you comfortably can. These plans can help you save on taxes if you're going to save anyway, as well as give you valuable interest over the years. Many employers will match your input up to a certain percent and that percent will often rise throughout the time of your employment, but you can still contribute as much as you want to the plan. The sooner you start investing, the more compound interest you will earn, notes U.S. News & World Report, so having as much interest-earning capital as possible is ideal.

Increasing savings Many experts suggest saving about 10 to 15 percent of your annual income toward retirement. With all of life's financial surprises, as well as expected costs like home maintenance and college tuition, it can be very intimidating to save that much. However, if you work up to the recommended amount, it may be easier. Try starting at a set rate lower than the suggested 10 percent and increase your contribution annually by 1 or 2 percent. This slow increase may help you get used to budgeting and saving money gradually.

Catch-up plans If you haven't been saving as much as you would like to, there are many ways to help catch up once you reach age 50. The limits on how much you can put into IRAs and other accounts is often raised, so you can get on track for an easy-going retirement.