Stopped Your Retirement Savings, then Lost Momentum Completely? Here's How to Fix It
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Losing momentum kills dreams.
Like these: the bestselling book remains unfinished, the Model T never gets restored, the blog gets abandoned.
But here's the biggest dream killer of all: Starting, then stopping, your retirement savings for whatever reason. Maybe you have a great reason for stopping: a health emergency. A gigantic bill. You needed the extra cash.
Heck, the pandemic may have given you a good reason to stop your retirement savings.
But the problem is that you may have completely lost your motivation to start saving for retirement again. Take a look at how you can get back on track with your nest egg and your dreams.
How to Get Your Momentum Going Again
Does this sound like you? You set up your retirement fund with the intent to absolutely smash it: "Can't wait to see $1,000,000 someday!" Then, something happens, you stop contributing money toward the funds you so carefully selected. You totally lose the excitement you initially felt.
Been there, done that? Take these tips into consideration so you have a fighting chance at jumpstarting your mojo.
Tip 1: Stare down the fear (or at least, the reasons you haven't been contributing).
Avoiding your retirement savings situation might make you feel better in the short term. You might say to yourself, "Don't worry, I'll get to that. Just not today."
And then it slides for months. (Don't feel bad. We're all guilty of putting things off.)
However, did you know that avoidance can cause increased anxiety in the long term? In fact, when you completely avoid your fears, you teach your amygdala (the fear center of your brain) that you can't handle them.
It feels so much better to face your fears and fix what you've been avoiding. Stare them in the face and vow to fix them.
Tip 2: Establish firm, clear goals.
Here's the deal: You achieve true momentum when you set up goals and reach your milestones.
Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like this kind of momentum in action: Seeing how compound interest adds to your retirement savings over time. That's incredible momentum!
However, to get your savings momentum back, set up little goals that you can complete. Accomplishment leads to confidence. Creating small wins for yourself gets you to your overarching goals.
What are your big goals? Maybe you want to save $1,000 per month for retirement. Work backward from there and figure out how much you'll need to save per week to make that happen. (The best way to eat an elephant is to take one bite at a time.)
Tip 3: Take the first easy step toward your goal.
Building on those firm, clear goals: Write down your very first step. It can be really tiny! For example, it can simply involve walking down to your human resources office and saying, "I'd like a 401(k) contribution authorization form."
You can do that.
Or it might involve calling your plan manager at your job and saying, "Let's set up a meeting to chat about my retirement goals."
You can do that.
Any small action you take toward a goal makes it more likely to come true, and of this, I've always been a big believer. For example, my family and I have a goal of saving for a Disney Adventures trip. Our first small step was to have some materials sent to us. That's it. Just a brochure.
What's that first small step that it'll take to recharge your momentum?
Whatever it is, you can do it.
Tip 4: Get an advisor on board.
Whether you reach out to your plan's advisors at work or reach out to an independent advisor, tell them about your situation. That's what they're there for.
You don't have to singlehandedly shoulder the burden of not contributing to your retirement funds. That's a weighty load. In fact, your advisor will have a solution. He or she will come up with some genius plan to get you on track.
It could sound something like this: "We'll start out contributing just 2% of your income toward retirement. In a month, I'll increase it to 3%. We'll do that every month till we get to 6%, then see how comfortable you feel."
In other words, professionals can help you get there. Better yet, they'll hold you accountable to it, especially if you ask. And by the way, they'll throw in lots of other great advice. Just make sure you hire someone who is a fiduciary — in other words, they work in your best interest.
Tip 5: Remember your why.
Remind yourself why you want to save for retirement in the first place. Do you want to save for your kids someday? Do you want to have the option to travel around the world when you shut down your computer for the last time?
Remember the reasons you want to save for retirement and use those dreams to fuel your momentum.
Tip 6: Don't wait.
Do not wait. Take that first small step right now.
Right now. This minute.
Get Your Retirement Mojo Back
Not saving for retirement can bring about a whole host of feelings: guilt, trepidation and even fear.
However, think about this. You have a great chance to make your savings even better than before. What if you were to turbocharge your retirement savings? With some well-timed financial advice, what if you end up saving way more than you originally had been? You might find that your little break in the action fuels your possibilities even more!
For example, let's say you're 45. You probably have about 20 years before you retire. All of the money you invest can grow!
When you lose momentum, remember that it's normal. Life gets in the way for all of us. And if it takes you a long time to get back on the pony, that's okay — as long as you actually get back on.
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