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Salaries are not easily moving upward these days, and in many cases people are making much less. It’s fairly tough to set aside a chunk of your check for retirement when your monthly income barely covers necessary expenses. There are a few things you can do to prepare and plan for retirement even if you have a smaller salary.

First, consider your career path. If you’re in a low tax bracket now, but expect to move forward in your career which will place you eventually in a higher tax bracket, you may want to consider a Roth IRA now. Once your salary goes above a certain amount, you won’t be eligible to contribute. Roth accounts also allow you to invest with the ability to withdraw contributions, but not the earnings, if there’s an emergency. Furthermore, no income tax is due on withdrawals in retirement. If it’s an option to set aside even $25 per month, that could add up to quite a nice payout in retirement, depending on growth of investments and time.

If your job has great retirement benefits, then you’re already on the right track. But if not, then you may want to look for a company that provides a great retirement plan, because this is part of the compensation package and can make a significant difference in retirement. You should contribute something from each paycheck to your company 401k plan. Even small amounts count and you can defer paying income tax on the amount contributed. Many companies have eliminated matching your contributions in a company 401k plan, but there are a bunch of companies out there who will match up to a few percent of your contributions. That’s free money, and definitely worth taking advantage of the benefits.

Setting up a direct deposit to your savings or retirement account on a monthly basis is another idea. This way the money is automatically set aside and you will not likely miss a small amount each month such as $10 or $20. It’s always best to pay yourself first and invest in your future. Also, educate yourself on the investments you choose for a retirement account. Some mutual funds have high expenses for the cost of managing the fund. In these cases, the cost takes away from your earnings.

If you’ve got a skill that allows you to take on freelance or project work on weekends, this may be another option. Whatever income is generated from taking on side work or projects can be placed in a savings or retirement account. Even if your side work is unrelated to your full-time job, and is more of a hobby, it’s yet another way to prepare now for later.

While it may be difficult to find even a small sum of money to set aside each month, it will pay off much later to make the extra effort to save something. You may think $10 or $20 can’t possibly be worth it, but that amount per month will add up over the decades. If you can keep the long-term goal in mind of having a comfortable retirement, know that you’re better off going the extra mile now than having to worry about your financial situation later.

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