Amassing the high dollar amounts needed for your golden years takes a long-term commitment. Sticking to your resolve — financially and emotionally — requires strategies for dealing with a steady stream of near-term spending temptations and other expenses (planned and otherwise). Here are some ways to help you stay strong.

1. Paint a detailed picture of the life you want to live

“Retirement” is a nebulous goal. For a motivational boost, make the goal come to life by filling in the details about where you will live, the activities that will fill your days and the people you will be with. Vacationing where you plan to retire, or even staycationing to live for a week like the retiree you hope to be, will make it more tangible.

2. Give your willpower muscle a break

Put your long-term savings on autopilot: Set it up once and let it ride. If you have a workplace retirement savings plan, like a 401(k), simply sign up; money is automatically routed from your paycheck into the account regularly. Some 401(k)s even automate annual contribution increases. You can lift the cognitive load outside of a workplace plan, too, by setting up automatic deposits to an IRA.

3. Calculate the cost of today’s spending decisions

When you are tempted to pull your wallet out for an unplanned purchase, grab your phone instead and run the numbers using a compound interest calculator. Passing up a $100 purchase and investing it instead (earning the stock market’s average annual return of around 7 percent) would give you more than $500 in spending money in 25 years.

4. Reward your selfless behavior

You will be on the retirement savings treadmill for a while. Along the way, give yourself credit — and a little something special — for sticking with it. Celebrate each time you hit a specific retirement savings milestone.

For instance, high-five when you complete a particular task, like sitting down with your sweetheart to use an online retirement calculator to project your future investment income, or save a specific dollar amount, like increasing your tax-favored contributions. The IRS recently raised the annual cap for 2019 to $6,000 for IRAs and $19,000 for 401(k)s.

Don’t wait decades to pat yourself on the back for all the hard work of saving for retirement. Regularly toast your progress — and your retired future self’s well-being.


Dayana Yochim is a writer at NerdWallet. E-mail: Twitter: @DayanaYochim.