Making sure that you have more money coming in than going out is important. However, making smart money moves to maximize your income is a key component to financial success.
You might think that, based on your education, history or other factors, making more money isn’t possible. But we’re going to give you tips for maximizing your income right now–and during retirement.
Smart money moves to increase your income
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on fire for FIRE, saving for a cushy retirement or simply want to live a comfortable life now. You can find ways to increase your income that will last a lifetime.
1. Evaluate Your Retirement Savings
No matter your age, it’s important to take a serious look at your retirement savings plan. Why? Because your future income amount is just as vital as your current income amount.
You can have all of the income in the world right now. But if you don’t have a solid plan for retirement income, I promise you’ll regret it.
You might be thinking that increasing retirement savings now is actually decreasing your current income. Well, yes and no.
Taking advantage of pre-tax retirement plans is a smart way to have the least impact on your current income.
But don’t forget the power of compound interest. The more money you have saved for retirement now, the more powerfully compound interest can be working for you.
This is why a solid retirement savings plan is so important–at any age.
Our best advice regarding retirement savings prep lies in three simple pieces of advice:
- If you’re young (under 30) start saving for retirement right now
- Are you middle aged? Ramp up your retirement savings big time if you’re behind your goal
- Are you closer to retirement (over 50)? EMERGENCY. Check your numbers and make a power savings plan if you’re behind.
The Young Crowd
Here’s the deal: it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. My oldest daughter started her first job 6 months ago.
I’d talked to her about participating in her company’s 401k program. However, she really felt as if she didn’t have the extra cash.
I made a questionable “mom” move and created a 401k account for her after I kept getting emails reminding her of the company’s available plan.
The plan had two options: a traditional 401k option and a Roth option. I set her up to 2.5% of each pre-tax paycheck would go into each type of account.
She can figure out the details later–for now I just wanted to get her saving. You’ve probably seen the popular chart that talks about saving younger vs. saving kinda-younger.
Click on the chart for details, but the gist of the point is that if you save $2,000 a year for 8 years starting at age 18–or if you save $2,000 a year for 40 years starting at age 27–18-year-old you will have more money in retirement. By a LOT. Over $7 million dollars more.
That, my friends, is the power of compound interest. The moral? Start early if you can.
The Middle-Aged Crowd
You’re lucky! You’ve still got some time on your hands if you’re in that 30-50 age range. Evaluate where you’re at and where you need to get to.
If you’re behind your retirement savings goals, ramp it up in a big way. Make some sacrifices for a few years so you can get that compound interest working in your favor.
You can chill out a bit after five or so years of ramping it up.
If you’re super behind, make those sacrifices for a longer period of time and then keep contributing as you age.
The Over 50 Crowd
If you’re over 50 and starting late (like me), you need a serious plan. Maybe that involves downsizing your house and maximizing your IRA contributions every year.
Or maybe that means getting a new job with a solid 401k plan. The one mistake you can’t afford to make when saving later for retirement:
Don’t save anything because “What’s the point?”. Every single dime you save and start earning interest on will add up and help you.
Just be sure to balance your risk levels as you invest. At your age, minimizing risk is important, but growth is too.
Talk to a trusted financial advisor to find the right balance for you.
2. Set Up an Emergency Fund
At first glance, setting up an emergency fund might not seem related to increasing your income–until you start thinking big picture.
Every person has monthly expenses. If a job loss or other major expense arises, your monthly budget is immediately in danger.
Suddenly, the weights have shifted and you’ve got less income to cover your expenses.
A solid emergency fund–three to six months’ worth of expenses–covers your tail. You can take from your emergency fund to cover an income loss or large expense if need be.
That means your monthly income, though lower, will be less affected until the bump in the road passes.
3. Evaluate Your Career
So, you’ve got your job or career or whatever. Hopefully you like it and are getting paid fairly for the work you do.
But what if you’re not? Or, what if your career’s income level just doesn’t cut it in a way that ensures you’ll reach your financial goals?
Then it’s time to reevaluate your career. What can you do to increase your income at your main job? Is there training you can complete?
Does a different company offer better pay for people with your experience? Can you ask your boss for a raise or promotion?
Start thinking outside the box and find ways to make more money doing what you’re doing. Or, consider switching careers to something that will earn you a higher income without costing you too much to make the switch.
4. Create a Budget
Part of increasing your income is managing your expenses properly.
Do you know how much you are currently spending on food, gas, monthly bills, and even spending money?
Or better yet, how much you should be spending? If you have more money going out compared to what is coming in that is a pretty good indication that you need some adjusting in your finances.
The same goes if you simply don’t have as much extra cash at the end of the month as you should.
Creating a budget is a great way to ensure your expenses are in line with your financial goals. A solid budget is an important step in becoming a financial powerhouse.
5. Track Your Spending
You can make all of the budgets in the world. However, if you’re not tracking your spending as a way to double-check yourself, your budget might be completely pointless.
When I was first learning about good money management, I made a budget every month. However, I wasn’t double-checking my spending.
Once I started tracking my spending I learned some startling facts.
- My $600 grocery budget was actually a $900 monthly expense
- The $150 gasoline budget was actually a $250 monthly expense
- My $100 entertainment budget was actually a $275 monthly expense (thanks largely to impromptu drive-thru runs)
I was spending an extra $7000 a year–simply because I wasn’t tracking my spending to ensure I was staying within budget on fluid expenses.
That’s a lot of freakin’ money.
Today, I track my expenses faithfully. I know exactly how much money I spend each month–and on what.
The benefit? I can stop out-of-control spending in real time. AND I can evaluate monthly spending and make changes if I see expenditures that aren’t in line with my financial goals.
This is called value-based spending. There’s no right or wrong way for you to be spending your money (okay, mostly).
However, there are expenditures that are in line with what you value most–and expenditures that are not in line with what you value most.
In other words, if those daily coffee runs aren’t as important to you as financial independence, you can cut them out. Little moves like that can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly income.
6. Create Multiple Streams of Income
If you really want to increase or solidify your income, multiple streams of income is the answer.
The best thing about multiple streams of income is that if you have them, you’ll never be completely without income.
Think about it: If you only have your main job, and that job goes bye-bye, you’re officially without a paycheck. Zero income. Nada. Nothing.
However, if you’ve got a few side hustles you’re covered! Got a lawn mowing side hustle? Go mow a few more lawns!
Are you a pet sitter? Create a profile on Rover and increase your exposure to potential clients.
Do you clean houses as your side hustle? Step up your advertising and offer some cleaning or organizing specials.
Learn how to get a few passive and residual income streams in place. You’ll increase your income and have more money to reach your financial goals with.
7. Get Out of Debt
What does your current debt picture look like? In other words, how much higher would your monthly income be if you didn’t have any debt payments?
$200 a month higher? $500? $800?
If you’re sitting on credit card debt, car payments, student loan payments, etc., get them paid off. You’ll have an immediate increase in your monthly income by doing so.
8. Stay Focused on the Goal at Hand
I can’t sugarcoat this one; it will be tough. It’s like changing your eating habits and dropping the junk food.
The work will take time to make an impact. You might stray every so often. However, it will be worth it in the end if it frees up extra money every month to maximize your income.
The end result is that you’ll have increased contributions to your retirement account, have built up an emergency fund and be holding down a successful budget with limited unnecessary spending.
And all while living debt-free. Your monthly income will only go up from here if you keep your plan in line.
And then you’ll see your net worth grow to FIRE proportions. If you save and invest right, you’ll be able to retire early, take your dream job or do whatever else you want to do.
If you’re having trouble with this step–and many people do–try these tips.
- Chart your progress. Make spreadsheets or graphics to show how far you’ve come.
- Implement small rewards for mini goals you reach. Head out for some ice cream. See a movie.
- Remind yourself of your former financial self. Relive the days when you were paycheck-to-paycheck and deep in debt.
- Get motivated. Read stories of people who’ve attained what you’re working for. Imagine your life when you’ve reached your goals. Read books that teach and inspire you toward financial freedom.
Don’t let anyone–including yourself–tell you otherwise: You can reach your financial goals. Just keep moving forward and revamp your path as need be. These smart money moves should hepl you with that.
You got this.
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