Don’t Freak Over Retirement Planning. You Can Do These 3 Things Right Now

Retirement planning
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I tend to stress about a lot.

To give you some perspective, I’m 24, and I’m already slightly stressed about retiring. I know I have some time, but I want to be able to live comfortably on a mountain somewhere and travel to national parks.

I’ve read those articles and crunched the numbers. I needed to start saving yesterday.

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s feeling stressed. (I can’t imagine how you folks in your 40s and 50s feel…)

About 30% of workers report feeling mentally or emotionally stressed about preparing for retirement, according to a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute report.

Another 3 in 10 people say they worry about their personal finances while at work, and half of those folks say they’d be more productive at work if they didn’t have to worry.

Why not start planning right now? Really, it’s not as tough as you’d think; just ditch the “I’ll do it tomorrow” ’tude. (Guilty.)

Step 1: Determine How Much Money You Need in Retirement

Only 4 in 10 of y’all have even tried to figure out how much money you’ll need to live comfortably.

You don’t need to stare at spreadsheets for hours to figure this out.

SmartAsset has a retirement calculator. All you need to do is plug and chug. It’ll ask you basic questions before popping out all the numbers you need: how much money you need to retire, your estimated annual income you’ll need in retirement, your estimated Social Security benefits and the tax rate today versus the tax rate in retirement.

In all, it took me about 10 minutes.

Remember, these calculators aren’t necessarily universal, but use these numbers as a jumping-off point to get you motivated.

Step 2: Figure Out Where to Stash Your Retirement Savings — and Get Started

For a while, I used Qapital to painlessly save money. However, I wasn’t making anything from said money, so I started looking into different options.

Because the math side of my brain doesn’t work very well, I always refer to this article my smart co-worker wrote: If You Invest $100 Today, How Can You Get The Best Return?

Some of the best options, depending on your lifestyle and financial factors, include stashing it in a traditional or Roth IRA or taking advantage of a 401(k) with employer match.

Remember: You don’t need a lot to start saving. As a baseline, if you started saving at 21, you only need to save $100 a month (or $25 a week) to have enough to retire.

If you’re having trouble getting started, read how our founder stopped living paycheck to paycheck and saved his first $1,000.

Step 3: If You Don’t Have Anything To Save, Start Hustling

If you didn’t start saving for your retirement at 21, that’s OK. Here are some flexible ways to make some extra money so you can retire comfortably.

1. Set it, and forget it.

Investing will solve two problems at once: It’ll give you a place to keep your savings as well as give you a chance to make some money.

Start smaller with a micro-investing app like Stash.

All you’ll have to do is fill out some basic information, then you’ll get assigned your investing style: conservative, moderate or aggressive.

You’ll go on to answer questions about your employment status and citizenship. Heads up: It’s also going to ask for your Social Security number. It won’t check your credit; it just needs to know you’re a real person. Any other SEC-registered investment advisor will ask for it, too.

In “Auto-Stash” mode, the app automatically withdraws a certain amount of cash from your bank account as often as you’d like — from once a week to once a month. Pick whatever you feel like you can handle — even just $5.

Your first month of Stash is free, and you’ll bank a $5 bonus when you sign up here. Each month after, your fee is $1 until your account hits $5,000. After that, Stash charges 0.25% of your account balance per year.

2. Take on a new hobby.

I typically hate anonymous quotes (so meta, so vague), but I love this one: “Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.”

I define a hobby as something I can do while I watch Netflix, another hobby of mine. Surveys fit the bill — and make you some bills.

Some of our favorite survey sites are Swagbucks and VIP Voice. You’ll get paid in credits, which you cash in for gift cards. But because we’re talking about retirement, you’ll likely want to sell these gift cards for cash.

3. Strike up a flexible side gig.

The gig economy is hot for many reasons, including flexible schedules.

Plus, you’ve got a lot of options, depending on your interests…

  • If you like cranking up the radio while taking afternoon drives, consider driving for a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.
  • If you like kids, become a babysitter or nanny. You could make up to $18 an hour.
  • If you prefer dogs or cats, try pet sitting. You could use a service like DogVacay or Rover or opt to start your own business.

For more side gig inspiration, I’ve gotcha covered.

And if you just want more ideas on how to save for retirement? Read up on our 12 suggestions. If you tackle one each month, you can bank an extra $5,000 this year.

Hello, mountain cabin…

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.