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7 ways to guarantee you won't save enough money to retire

Woman thinkingShutterstock

You’ve heard it countless times: Americans aren’t saving enough money for retirement.

In fact, nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all — and single people are even less prepared.

How prepared are you? If any of these seven habits strike a chord, it may be time to reevaluate your retirement savings plan:

Putting off savings until tomorrow

Retirement might seem too far off to start considering, especially if you're in your 20s, but some experts say that if millennials don't change their rocky savings habits, they will miss the retirement boat completely.

The earlier you start, the better, yet many young people are not harnessing the power of compound interest.

To get a general idea of how big your nest egg should be by now, check out this handy retirement savings checkpoint guide from JPMorgan.

Prioritising your kid's education over your own retirement

Obviously, your child's education is important, but 'your number one priority -- even if you have a family -- still has to be retirement,' certified financial planner Michael Egan told Business Insider.

Many financial experts put it simply: You can take out loans for college, but they don't offer loans for retirement.

Think long term, Egan advises; if you don't set aside enough money for your own retirement, your child may have to support you in the future, which could end up being more expensive in the long run than student loans would be.


Relying solely on your 401(k)

Many experts recommend using investment vehicles in addition to your employer's retirement plan.

'With the grim outlook on the future of Social Security and pension plans becoming a thing of history, relying on your employer's retirement plan to fund your golden years may just not be enough anymore,' explains investment analyst Thomas Walsh on MainStreet. 'Contributing to an employer plan such as a 401(k) is a great start for retirement saving, but the more you can save for the future, the better.'

Consider contributing money towards a Roth IRA or traditional IRA, research low-cost index funds -- which Warren Buffett recommends -- and look into the online investment platforms known as 'robo-advisers.'

Tapping into your savings to cover unexpected expenses

'Whatever you think you're going to need, you're going to need more,' certified financial planners Gary Plessl and Kevin Houser told Business Insider. 'There are always going to be things that pop up, and there are always going to be surprises.'

One of the biggest wild cards when it comes to expenses is dental care, they explain: 'It's something that not too many people think about, and without dental insurance, you could end up with a $3,000 t0 $5,000 surprise dental expense.'

But pulling money out of your retirement savings to cover a non-retirement cost is doubly damagin: You lose the money from your savings, and you decrease the amount of money earning interest, meaning you'll have even less than you withdrew when it comes time to retire.

This is why it's so important to have an established emergency fund.

Getty Images

Living above your means

If you're an overspender lucky enough to avoid taking on debt, you're most likely living paycheck to paycheck -- and that makes it nearly impossible to plan and set aside money for retirement.

You also can't assume you'll be earning more in the future in order to justify overspending in the present moment.

'Savings first should be your mentality,' said Egan. 'Save for retirement first, and spend with whatever is left over. What people typically do is the opposite of that, thinking, 'I've got to buy this, this, and this, and whatever's left, I'll save.' Pay your future first, and make sure your present is secure.'


Not establishing specific goals

Without pinpointing a target retirement age and how much you'll need to retire by then, you can never set up a savings plan that will get you there.

It's equally important to have a clear lifestyle goal -- by envisioning your future lifestyle, you'll be able to create financial goals that will allow you to fulfil that lifestyle. If you plan on travelling a lot, for example, you'll likely need to save more money. How much you plan to gift to family members or charity will also affect how much you need to save.

Putting aside some money and hoping you'll have enough by the time retirement rolls around just won't cut it.

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