6 ways to maximize retirement savings

No matter what career path you choose, you'll want to know how to get the most out of planning for the future.

After all, when you retire from your first career, many of your expenses will continue. There are still everyday bills to pay plus unexpected costs that can sneak up on you. Not to worry. If you maximize retirement savings, you can make the most of your next chapter.

From how much to save for retirement to what percentage of income should go to retirement, and how to replace your salary when you get there, here are six strategies that can help:

1. Take responsibility for your retirement

When our parents were starting out, they probably didn't think about how much to save for retirement. Pensions were more common back then, particularly in the healthcare and education fields. As a result, many employees were all but guaranteed a lifetime income in retirement, typically based on their salary and years of experience.

However, pensions are less common today. What this means for workers: You're in charge of your own retirement, so it's smart to take a proactive approach to maximizing retirement saving, tracking your investments and figuring out how to convert your savings into steady income in retirement.

2. Start to protect your income by using a diversified retirement plan

While you're saving for retirement, it's important to diversify your assets among different types of investments to help reduce your exposure to market risks. The same principle holds true for taking income in retirement: Creating an income plan that includes money from different sources can help you cover the expected, and unexpected, risks that can come with retirement.

There are a number of ways to create diversified retirement income. Combining at least a few of the sources that are listed in the following chart can help you better protect your income from the risks that retirement may bring.

Guaranteed income, like Social Security, pensions (if eligible), fixed annuities (footnote 1) are unaffected by market volatility and provide income you can't outlive. Investments with growth potential, like variable annuities, mutual funds, and stocks, help keep pace with inflation and have the potential to grow.

The assets listed in the chart above can (and should) be included in a healthy, diversified retirement portfolio. If you include several asset classes in your long-term portfolio, the upswing of one asset class may help offset the downward movement of another as conditions change.

3. Create lifetime income with the potential to grow

With pensions becoming a thing of the past and Social Security replacing only a portion of preretirement paychecks, many people are turning to annuities as a source of guaranteed income that can last their entire lifetime. A diversified retirement plan that includes lifetime income from both fixed and variable annuities can offer you steady, reliable income for life—and the potential for continued growth.

Variable annuities offer an income stream with growth potential that may help keep pace with inflation. Your income stream is guaranteed for  life but the actual amounts will vary based on the performance of underlying investments. Your money will be subject to the risks associated with investing in securities, including loss of principal. Fixed annuities provide a guaranteed, fixed amount for life or a certain period of time. Your guaranteed income payment is not affect by market volatility, which may help shield your income from market risk, but your income payments may not keep up with inflation

Your employer may offer fixed and variable annuities that can strengthen your diversified retirement income needs and address risks you may face, as well. Annuities found within employer retirement plans are often lower priced than their retail counterparts.*

4. Save enough to get the match

Many people wonder what percentage of income should go to retirement. If your employer matches a portion of your contributions to your workplace plan, you'll want to save at least enough to get that match. Otherwise, you're walking away from free money.

For example, your employer may contribute a dollar for each dollar you save, up to 6% of your total salary. If you're deciding how much to contribute, missing the match by just a percentage point or two can make a big difference in your total savings.

5. See what a difference a few dollars can make

If you think you can't afford to contribute to your employer plan, consider this: Increasing your retirement plan contributions may help lower your overall taxable income.

For example, if you earn $50,000 a year and start to contribute $100 a week, your paycheck would be $75 less (assuming you are in the 25 percent federal tax bracket).

And saving any amount in a workplace plan, and getting it matched by your employer, means you're getting at least some of your potential benefit.

6. Look for more ways to save for retirement

No matter how much or how little money you are able to save, it's important that you start as soon as you can to maximize retirement savings and income for your future.

If you're finding it difficult to cover your everyday expenses and also put away savings, there are still some options. Check out TIAA's online insights about how to manage your money. Also, you can start envisioning your future by creating a customized action plan with our financial calculators.

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Annuity contracts contain exclusions, limitations, reductions of benefits and may contain terms for keeping them in force. We can provide you with costs and complete details.

* Lower expenses do not necessarily result in higher returns.

1 Fixed annuity guarantees are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.

2 There are risks associated with investing in securities including possible loss of principal. Variable annuities are suitable for long-term investing, such as retirement investing. Withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to tax penalties and surrender charges may apply. Variable annuities are subject to market risk and may lose value.

This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.