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As I begin to wind down my professional career, I think back to the messages I’ve received throughout my life about money and the idea of saving money. Of course, as a young man, I never thought much about saving. After all, I was young and had plenty of time to spare.
It was a plan built on wishes and fantasies. A plan that gave me all kinds of party money and set me on a path to self-destruction. Even though I had some incredible, if a bit crazy, moments, the memories lasted me a lifetime. But those memories did nothing for me when I had an emergency.
It got to a point where I could justify not saving money. After all, with all the debt I had, how could I save a penny? The question should have been how could I not have saved a penny?
One of the easiest ways to save money and get a raise is through your workplace retirement plan (401K). People don’t because… it goes back to my early beliefs that I was young and I’ll worry about that tomorrow.
Let’s look at a simple example of how this can help. This is just an example using simple financial amounts. During the month, you earn $1,000. Let’s say 20% is taken for taxes. Your take home pay is $800. That’s all you earn for the month, so saving money is impossible, right? I say. Bad.
I’m still learning about UK pensions so I’ll also use the 401K templates I use. Let’s say your employer will match your contributions up to 5%. So if you put in 2%, they will contribute 2%. If you put 3%, they make 3% and so on up to 5%. So if you contribute to a 401K and only contribute 2% (in this example), you are losing money. You lose 3% of the money your employer would contribute.
In the example above, based on a 100-hour work month, your hourly wage was $10. By contributing 2% to a 401K, which your employer matches, your monthly salary increased by $20. An hourly raise of 20 cents. Thus, the hourly wage rose to $10.20. But without taking advantage of the employer’s 5% maximum, the employee loses $30 per month and 30 cents per hour.
Yes, to get this raise you will have to give money from your check that you say you don’t have. 401K contributions are considered before taxes. So if you take 5% of your $1,000 monthly check, your taxable income is $950. Then the 20% taken from that amount leaves you with a take-out check for $760. A loss of $40. But you add $50 to your account and your employer adds another $50. So for the month you added $100 to your account which only cost you $40.
These are simple numbers but it’s crazy not to use pension plans to your advantage. I’ve heard people in the UK say blueprints are rubbish. The only horrible plan is no plan. To take advantage of any plan, contribute at least the maximum that your employer will match and review your plan as well. Many plans offer different investments to make your money grow. From simple safe plans like bonds and CDs to riskier investments from international funds.
Don’t treat a plan as rubbish. Watch it, invest in it, and plan for your future.
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