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Ways to Avoid Reckless Holiday Spending that Could Wreck your Retirement

By Jay Sharifi

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While an enjoyable part of the holiday season is giving to others, those nearing retirement would be prudent to give something back to themselves as the year nears its end.

That’s the advice from some retirement planners: Reduce holiday spending to provide more money for one’s retirement savings. But it’s a well-known fact that much of America wakes up with a credit-card hangover on New Year’s Day, and curtailing holiday expenses in favor of financial planning for one’s future requires more discipline and a stronger commitment. 

It’s easy to overspend during the holidays and make too many emotional purchase decisions. That hurts your long-term financial goals.

The holiday shopping list may seem to get longer as you get older, but at some point you need to draw a line and balance your urge to give with the must of retirement considerations. It doesn’t mean you leave people out, but rather, you don’t go overboard and leave a little more for yourself. It can make a big difference in the long run.

Here are four tips on saving more for retirement during the holiday season.

Review your past expenses and plan for the big picture. The holidays are a good time to reflect on how you spent your earnings over the past year. Adjustments may be necessary to get your retirement savings on track. All through the year, money gets away from people a little bit at a time. That’s often because they don’t have a firm plan. Not dealing with your expenses correctly can be very costly to your retirement. The holidays are the right time to recalibrate for the future.

Make a holiday list, check it twice. People should approach their holiday season spending in a way that can help them get on track toward retirement goals. That starts with a budget and sticking to it, but many people overspend during the holidays and end up paying for it well into the new year. If you have a budget set for holiday shopping, you can prioritize and figure out how you will get it done within those boundaries. Look for deals to stretch your dollars. Setting a budget will help you avoid spending sprees that leak onto your credit cards. The carryover there is you may need to dedicate funds in the coming year to reduce that debt, which makes it harder to save for retirement.

Sock away gifts from the company. Getting extra money from your company is a reward that you can use wisely toward retirement. If you receive a nice bonus, don’t spend it. Put that extra cash into a 401(k). That lowers your taxable income and gives you a boost toward your savings goals. And if your company offers you a raise, set a healthy percentage of that raise aside for retirement savings in the coming year.

Make extra money. Holiday seasonal jobs are an excellent opportunity to put extra money away for retirement. Online positions allow someone to work from home, and pet sitting is another popular part-time job with more people traveling during the holidays. 

It’s very tempting to spend this extra money, but if you have the big picture in mind, putting it in a long-term savings account is a great gift to yourself. With many Americans sinking further into debt during the holidays, it might be the right time for them to rethink how they spend and how it affects retirement.        

Jay Sharifi, author of “Building a Better Legacy: Retirement Planning for Your Lifetime and Beyond,” is founder and investment advisor with Legacy Wealth Management (www.lwealthmanagement.com). 

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