What if I don’t have a workplace retirement plan?
The rule works if you have an individual retirement account but may require more attention on your part. Ideally, if you save in an I.R.A., you should establish regular transfers from your checking account — or even a split deposit of your paycheck — into the I.R.A., timed to your paycheck deposits, to reduce the temptation to spend the money.
“If your paycheck hits on the 15th, set up a transfer for the 17th,” said Cheryl A. Costa, a financial planner in Framingham, Mass.
When you get a raise, increase the size of your transfers accordingly.
The message people should internalize, Mr. Wendel said, remains the same: “I always save part of my raise.”
Money is tight, and I don’t get regular raises. What can I do?
Save as much as you reasonably can, and don’t worry if you have to start small, said Gary Koenig, vice president for economic and consumer security at the AARP Public Policy Institute, which focuses on issues related to older Americans.
Some people may be discouraged by oft-cited guidelines, like saving 10 or 15 percent of your paycheck, so they don’t even try, he said. But a big barrier to retirement saving is just getting started. Enrolling in a retirement plan or opening an I.R.A. and saving just 1 percent of your paycheck can get things rolling, and you can build from there.
“It’s actually a big step,” Mr. Koenig said.
When you get extra cash — like a bonus, an income tax refund or even reimbursements from a workplace flexible spending account — put the money toward retirement, suggests the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, a group for fee-only financial planners.
“Have a policy that when you get money you weren’t expecting, a certain percentage goes into some form of savings,” said Tyler Reeves, a financial planner in Birmingham, Ala.