Saving for Retirement: Smart Strategies for Couples

Anders Skagerberg CFP, EA
Saving for Retirement: Smart Strategies for Couples

Retirement is the cornerstone of a well-crafted financial plan as it provides the ability to go from fully dependent on a job to fully self-reliant.

So naturally, saving for retirement is an important financial goal for many. But it won’t happen by accident—it requires a well-thought-out strategy and diligent execution. And for those in their 30s and 40s, as well as parents with young children, planning for retirement now is critical for a secure future. This blog post will explore various approaches to maximize retirement savings and achieve a healthy and secure retirement.

We'll discuss the benefits of contributing to different types of retirement accounts and retirement plan options available for self-employed individuals. You'll also learn about seeking personalized financial advice through professional advisors and online retirement calculators.

Additionally, we'll discuss different investments, such as mutual funds, index funds, and ETFs, and how they can help you achieve your retirement goals. We’ll also cover why understanding your risk tolerance is vital and offer insights on assessing individual risk levels while diversifying your portfolio.

Lastly, we’ll look at how re-evaluating spending habits and budgeting play a significant role in saving for retirement and share tips on identifying unnecessary expenses within your household budget. 

Maximizing Retirement Savings with Employer-Sponsored Plans

For most people, saving for retirement in an employer-sponsored plan will be one of the best ways to set aside funds for the future. 

Understanding the benefits of a 401(k)

There are many benefits when saving in a 401(k), from tax-deferred growth to employer-matching contributions to automatic payroll deductions. 

How much should you contribute?

Of course, advice will vary based on your unique situation, goals, and time horizon, but here are some things to consider: 

  • Try to contribute enough to receive the full employer match.

  • Consider allocating bonuses and raises towards higher savings rates.

  • Aim to save 10% to 15% of your annual income, including employer matching contributions.

Keeping an eye on fees

When saving in a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, it’s essential to be mindful of fees. So, review your fund options within your plan and identify those with the lowest fees. This will help you to maximize your savings over time and ensure you’re getting the most out of your hard-earned money.

Saving in a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan can be a great way to get ahead on your retirement savings. But, if you don’t have an employer-sponsored plan or are searching for additional savings opportunities, consider an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

Exploring Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a special type of retirement account that helps you save money while enjoying tax benefits. You can contribute a limited amount of money each year, and as long as you meet certain age and income criteria, your contributions can be tax-deductible and grow tax-free until you retire.

And fortunately, you can have an IRA in addition to your workplace plan.

IRAs come in two types: Traditional (pre-tax) and Roth (after-tax).

Contribution limits are updated over time, so check the IRS website for current limits. For 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500 annually ($7,500 if age 50 or older) across all your Traditional and Roth IRAs combined. 

Ultimately, IRAs can be a great way to save for retirement, but they come with certain limits that must be considered. If you want to contribute more than the annual limit, consider investing in other tax-advantaged accounts like a 401(k).

Saving for Retirement When Self-Employed or Freelancing

As a self-employed or freelance worker, you have options like a Solo 401(k), SEP IRA, Traditional IRA, or Roth IRA when saving for retirement.

  • Solo 401(k) and SEP IRAs: Provide tax-deferred growth, high contribution limits, and investment flexibility.

  • Choosing the right account: Consider factors like earned income, age 50 catch-up contributions eligibility, taxable income at retirement age, and whether you have employees.

Maximize your retirement savings by researching each option thoroughly and consulting with a financial professional if needed.

Check out credible sources like the IRS and Investopedia to learn more about retirement accounts for self-employed individuals.

Get Professional Advice & Use Online Tools for Retirement Planning

When saving for retirement, consider seeking advice from financial professionals.

A trusted advisor can come with many benefits, but above all, they can help you achieve the peace of mind that you’re on track for a healthy and secure retirement. You can find certified advisors in your area on NAPFA, Find a CFP, AdvisorCheck, or XY Planning Network.

In addition, you can use free retirement savings calculators online to get an idea of how much you’ll need in retirement and how much to save now to achieve your goals.

Investing Wisely for Retirement

Maximizing your retirement savings is essential, but investing those savings wisely is just as crucial. Appropriate investments depend on factors such as risk tolerance, age, and financial goals.

Assessing Your Risk Tolerance

When investing, it’s critical to understand your risk tolerance. 

Simply put, your risk tolerance is the amount of risk you’re willing to take with your investments. Generally, the further you are from your target retirement age, the higher your risk tolerance should be. However, some people are less comfortable taking risks than others and should adjust their investments accordingly. 

Knowing your risk tolerance level will help you determine how to invest your retirement savings—specifically, what ratio of stocks to bonds you should use.

For instance, someone with a low-risk tolerance, such as a retiree or someone uncomfortable taking risks, may target a balanced portfolio with around 50% stocks and 50% bonds.

Alternatively, someone with a higher risk tolerance may target a more aggressive portfolio, such as 90% stocks and 10% bonds. Generally, a more aggressive portfolio would be reserved for younger investors with a long time horizon until retirement. 

Diversifying Investment Portfolios

As an investor, it’s essential to diversify your investments. This means spreading your investments across a variety of different assets. And one of the best ways to do that is by using funds, a basket of stocks or bonds that offer easy diversification. 

Here are some popular fund types to consider:

  • Mutual Funds: Offer diversification by pooling money from multiple investors to invest in securities like stocks or bonds.

  • Index Funds: Track specific market indexes like the S&P 500; they provide broad exposure at lower costs than actively managed funds.

  • Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): Similar to index funds but traded like individual stocks, ETFs can help reduce investment fees while maintaining diversification benefits.

Regularly Monitoring Progress

Next, evaluate your portfolio's performance periodically and make adjustments when necessary based on changes in risk tolerance or financial goals. 

In addition, remember that individuals aged 50 and over can make catch-up contributions to IRAs, 401(k)s, and other qualified retirement plans.

Re-evaluating Spending Habits & Budgeting for Long-Term Goals

Lastly, remember the mantra of save now, enjoy later, as you reassess spending habits, and distinguish between needs versus wants on your path to a secure retirement. Doing so will allow you to allocate more funds towards long-term savings goals like retirement.

Creating an Effective Budget Plan

Track your income and expenses while setting realistic goals for saving using online tools such as Monarch Money. 

Prioritizing Essential Expenses Over Nonessential Ones

  • Evaluate: Regularly review your monthly expenses to identify areas where you can reduce non-essential spending.

  • Cut Costs: Consider cheaper alternatives for items like groceries, entertainment subscriptions, or dining out.

  • Savings Goals: Set aside a specific percentage of your monthly earned income towards retirement accounts and other long-term financial objectives. Savings needs vary by individual but consider targeting 15% of your income as a long-term savings goal. 

Saving Strategies for Couples

Lastly, maximize retirement savings as a couple by contributing equally to shared accounts such as joint taxable investment accounts. This will help you foster teamwork and ensure both partners are actively involved in your future retirement.

FAQs in Relation to Saving for Retirement

Why Saving for Retirement is Crucial

Consistently contributing to a retirement fund is essential to ensure financial security and maintain your desired lifestyle during your golden years.

By starting early and taking advantage of compound interest, you can reduce your reliance on Social Security and have the flexibility to pursue hobbies or travel in retirement without worrying about your financial situation.

The 4% Rule for Retirement Savings

The 4% rule suggests you can withdraw 4% of your total portfolio value annually during retirement while minimizing the risk of depleting your retirement savings. However, remember that this is a rule of thumb and should be adjusted based on your unique goals and preferences.

How Much Money You Need to Retire with $100,000 a Year Income

To generate an annual income of $100,000 in retirement using the 4% rule as guidance, you would need a nest egg of approximately $2.5 million. ($100,000 / 0.04 = $2,500,000)

Remember that factors such as inflation and investment returns can affect this calculation, so it's essential to regularly reassess your goals and adjust accordingly.

Five Key Tips for Retirement Savings

  1. Create a budget: Track expenses and allocate funds towards saving goals.

  2. Diversify investments: Spread risk across various asset classes like stocks and bonds.

  3. Increase contributions over time: Boost savings rates when possible (e.g., after pay raises).

  4. Tax-advantaged accounts: Utilize IRAs or employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s.

  5. Seek professional advice: Consult a CFP® Professional to create tailored strategies for your goals.


Retirement planning can be overwhelming, but securing your financial future is crucial.

Consider tax-advantaged accounts and seek advice from a CFP® Professional to make informed investment decisions.

Lastly, regularly monitor your progress, diversify your portfolio, and allocate additional funds towards retirement savings accounts. And remember, it's never too early to start—even parents with young children can build a strong foundation today for their future retirement needs.

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Anders Skagerberg CFP, EA Personal Finance Writer

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