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4 easy ways to kick-start your retirement savings


A man in yellow athletic clothes running up a set of concrete steps

Congratulations, you’ve got your 401(k) set up, and perhaps even an IRA or Roth IRA too. Your retirement planning is off to a great start. So now what? While these plans don’t require constant supervision, there are quick and painless things you can do over the course of the year to make them work even harder for you and your family.

1. Keep Your Hand Out of the Cookie Jar

Let’s start with the easiest thing you can do: Nothing. Your 401(k) is designed to auto-deduct from your paycheck for good reason — to make the decision of saving at regular intervals a literal no-brainer. The easiest way to keep the money invested is to never touch it. This is where a direct transfer and a direct rollover 1 may help.

2. Remember That 1% Goes a Long Way

Beyond capturing your employer’s match for your 401(k), consider increasing your contribution by a small amount each year, up to the annual contribution limit for your age. Even the amount of 1% can make a difference over the long-term duration of your plan. Explore our savings calculator 2 to get a more hands-on sense as to how advantageous it is to increase your savings.

3. Use Your Pay Raises

The fortunate event of a raise is another great opportunity to boost your long-term savings. By directing it to your 401(k) or IRA or Roth IRA, you'll give your savings an additional boost without an impact on your take-home pay. Again, just be mindful of the annual contribution limit for each.

4. Consider a 1-2 Punch

Together, a Roth IRA and 401(k) or IRA, or even a pre-taxed Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account, are complementary tools to help with your yearly contributions. The tax-deferral features of a 401(k) and IRA ensure that every dollar you add to your retirement account decreases your paycheck by less than a dollar (the difference will vary depending on your tax rate).

With a Roth IRA, you’ve already paid taxes on the contribution. As a U.S. News & World Report article points out, “Roth IRA account owners are often allowed to take tax-free distributions in retirement and can completely avoid paying taxes on their investment growth.” 3


This article is not an endorsement of any particular product, service or organization; nor is it intended to provide financial, tax or legal advice. It is intended to promote awareness and is for educational purposes only. 


1 Source: John Hancock Investments. Get the Most From Your Employer’s Retirement Plan.
2 Source: John Hancock Retirement Plan Services. RPS Savings Calculator.
3 Source: US News and World Report. 10 Reasons to Save for Retirement in a Roth IRA. Emily Brandon. May 11, 2015.