Retirement is a crucial goal for almost everyone, and one of the main concerns is setting aside enough money to maintain the same standard of living after deciding to stop working. Most people want to retire as early as possible, but fewer than half of all Americans are financially prepared for retirement. This gap is becoming increasingly difficult to close as life expectancies increase and the global economic situation worsens. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that workers aged 55 and older will make up up to 23.3% of the workforce by 2026.

While it is clear that savings are needed for retirement, managing 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) is a skill that goes unlearned too often, and as a consequence, many people struggle with managing their retirement savings. There are two main approaches to managing retirement accounts: saving up for a retirement fund directly and knowing how to manage your 401(k).

Make Your Savings Work for You

Saving as early as possible is a good practice — not only will it form a safety net for emergencies, but it can be put into a retirement fund. Saving is not as easy as it sounds, however, and several factors should be considered. First, you need to take advantage of compound interest. For example, two people who save $5000 a year will have drastically different results depending on when they decide to save. One who learned to save at age 22 will have double the amount of retirement savings as one who started saving at 32. Saving should also become a habit for emergencies as well as investments. Everyone should set aside a certain amount of money each month to cover unexpected costs like medical bills or home repairs. It would be a significant setback to take money out of hard-earned retirement investments to repair a roof or pay off an ER visit. Understanding investment options is another important factor in knowing where and when you should invest. Your account options may vary depending on how and where you work, so a little research may be necessary. Lastly, set realistic goals with your first savings and investments. Pressuring yourself too much to save will only make you frustrated if you don’t reach your saving goals, and it may cause you to give up entirely. And when investing, it’s always a good idea to start slow, cheap, and boring. Don’t try to outsmart the market as an amateur investor. If you’re investing on your own, follow established wisdom and prioritize more conservative options rather than taking a risk on an up-and-coming opportunity that could offer big returns but might also crash and burn—taking your investment money with it.

Managing Your 401(k) For Maximum Benefits

Growing and protecting your 401(k) is crucial, especially for people who do not have a traditional pension program. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to the rules to ensure that taxes, fees, and other problems do not reduce your 401(k) balance. There are plenty of resources available to help you effectively manage your funds, as well as introducing you to less traditional approaches like self-directed IRAs. As a general rule, most authorities will tell you that there are five important steps to be taken to manage your retirement account:

1. Understand your trajectory in terms of your time horizon
2. Calculate the return after tax
3. Keep a close eye on estate planning
4. Determine how much you spend and what your spending needs are
5. Assess your tolerance for risk

Once these five factors have been identified, you can start investing and saving wisely. Managing your retirement account is not easy—it often involves a lot of planning and research. However, learning how to manage your savings and your 401(k) funds are the keys to success. Managing retirement accounts requires work and planning, as well as collaborating closely with a financial advisor. The older you get, the more important it is that you become knowledgeable about your retirement options. Start building your retirement account now. Building a good future starts today!

Author's Bio: 

Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She often covers developments in HR, business, recruiting, real estate, law and finance, but also enjoys writing about travel, interiors and events.