Paying high fees, choosing portfolios that are overly conservative (or overly risky), and failing to update or even check on those investments on a regular basis are just a few of the common mistakes people make with their retirement accounts. To avoid missteps, employees can often rely on free services offered through their company's human resources department or retirement services provider. Fidelity, for example, offers free seminars and online information to clients.
Alicia Munnell, director of Boston College's Center for Retirement Research, cautions that putting aside 9 percent of your income into a retirement account is "grossly inadequate." Someone who starts saving at age 35, plans to retire at age 67, and expects a 4 percent return, for example, needs to save double that, even after taking Social Security into account. Other financial experts recommend saving as much as one-quarter of your income, in both retirement and after-tax accounts, to make sure you're fully covered.
If manually shifting money into savings and investment accounts is too time-consuming or too painful, consider setting up automatic deposits. Many banks make it easy for customers to do that, and, in fact, might even offer rewards for doing so. Wells Fargo, for example, waives monthly service fees on some of its accounts when customers set up recurring automatic transfers.
If you pay off your credit card bill each month and earn rewards for your spending, don't forget to cash in on them. The biggest bang-for-buck often comes from purchasing retailer-specific gift cards, which have been pre-negotiated by card companies. Farnoosh Torabi, financial expert and television personality, recently picked up an Apple Macbook Air with her points, which she also uses to buy gift cards for family members.
If your credit card isn't meeting all your needs, it might be time to find one that does. Comparison websites such as nerdwallet.com, indexcreditcards.com, and creditcards.com make it easy to compare the benefits of different cards to figure out which one suits your needs. If you carry any sort of balance, there's only one factor to focus on: finding the lowest interest rate.
Bank policies can vary widely, from offering above-average interest rates on savings accounts to making it easy to budget online with extra tools. Consider your own lifestyle and then find the bank that best matches it. If you travel a lot, you probably want a large bank with thousands of ATMs throughout the country (and beyond). If you're trying to save more, then you might want to focus on the savings rates.
Customers are increasingly voting with their feet and switching banks when they're not happy with their current one. That also means customers have more leverage to ask for the changes they want from their current bank, as banks struggle to retain loyal customers. If you want lower fees or a higher interest rate on your savings account, ask your bank what they can do for you—they might be able to offer you a better deal than the one you're currently getting.