Saving for retirement as a married couple is not an easy task. Add to that saving for college, while also paying for a mortgage, and you have a recipe for disaster if you don't have a well thought out financial plan. Often, many couples decide to have one partner stay at home once they have children. This means that the couple will have to handle saving for all life goals on a single income. To effectively prepare for retirement, you'll have to be very strategic and extra careful with your budget in order to increase your savings.
Run Your Household As a Successful Business
The first way to get a hold on your finances in preparation for retirement is to trim your expenses. Write down all the items you buy on a regular basis and analyze this list with your partner. Be completely honest about your spending habits and thoroughly look at everything. Set emotions aside and look at your household as a business. You and your partner are the CEOs, and to effectively run this business you will have to turn a profit. So, limit your expenses and eliminate items you do not need. You know that you'll save in lunches and gas because the partner not working outside the home will need to spend less on these items, but look at items you can eliminate or minimize.
In order to meet retirement goals, it's essential to boost the amount that you contribute in order to make up for the missing income. If you were planning to retire at 60, expect to work a few more years. Also, increase the amount you contribute to your retirement plan. If you were contributing 10%, find ways to increase this percentage to 15% or higher. Remember, you'll need to put a lot more away so you'll need to be aggressive. Try to max out your retirement plan. If you file a joint tax return, the working spouse can open a Roth or Traditional IRA and contribute the max amount of US$5,000, $6,000 if over 50. Once your joint AGI reaches $166,000, contributions will be limited. When it reaches $176,000, it is phased out completely.
Minimize and Strategize
The key to saving for retirement effectively on only one income is to stay focused on your long-term goal and rein in expenses. Begin saving early and minimize eating out as this expense can really add up. Get creative on clothing combinations so you don't have to buy new clothes frequently. Minimize going out to the movies and consider working out from home. Buy clothes at thrift stores. Many times, people donate brand new clothes with tags still attached. Also, don't add to your expenses by using credit cards. Make sure you have the discipline to save for items and pay in cash or at least be sure you can pay the credit card bill in full. It's important to be strategic about your budget and figure out the best way to get the extra funds you'll need for retirement. It might be necessary for the person still working to try and get a higher-paying job.
The Bottom Line
Saving for retirement on just one income will be difficult, but it is doable. The best way is for the partner who is at home to stretch the dollar and get extra income from different sources. This will create a healthy financial life in the home and help you both reach retirement age with a hefty and comfortable nest egg.