Yes, you really can devise a smart savings plan for retirement in just a quarter of an hour. The potential reward is huge: A survey by banking giant HSBC found that people who have even a rudimentary plan for reaching retirement goals are ending up with up to three times as much money as those without one.
Step one: Figure out your monthly savings target by filling in basic info like your projected retirement age and current savings rate at T. Rowe Price's Retirement Income Calculator (troweprice.com). Time needed: five minutes.
Step two: Coming up short? Use the remaining 10 minutes to pump up your 401(k) contributions on your plan's website. If you can't put away as much as the calculator recommends, commit to automatically increasing the amount you're saving at the time of your raise; half of large employers offer this feature, according to Aon Hewitt.
Small change, big impact
Financial experts recommend saving at least 10% of income a year for retirement. Sound impossible? Increase your savings by just one percentage point a year until you get there and you'll hardly feel a pinch. Below you can see the difference over time, assuming you start with the average 7% contribution.
401(k) balance after 30 years on a $50,000 salary:
7% contribution: $685,700
Dialed-up contribution: $869,000
401(k) balance after 30 years on a $100,000 salary:
7% contribution: $1.4 million
Dialed-up contribution: $1.7 million
Want to save money for a rainy day or a sunny vacation week but never have enough leftover cash to stash for these goals? Have the money taken directly from your paycheck, so you'll never miss it.
Only about 20% of workers split their paycheck among multiple accounts, though many employees with access to direct deposit can do so, reports electronic- payments industry group NACHA.The association found that those who take advantage save $90 more a month than those who don't.
How to do it: If you don't have dedicated savings accounts for each of your goals, set them up. Discover Bank (discoverbank.com) is a good option since it consistently pays higher-than-average rates, recently 1% a year.
Opening accounts online takes 10 minutes tops. Next contact your payroll department to see if you can split your paycheck; if so, figure on filling out a form, adding another five minutes. Not an option? Set up automatic transfers from your checking account so that the money is moved on payday.
You know that coupons can reduce the bite groceries and other household goods take out of your budget -- 25% of take-home pay for the average family -- but you can't spend hours perusing the Sunday circulars. Fortunately, there are apps for that. Download these:
Coupon Sherpa: Delivers coupons to your phone for in-store scanning (free for iPhone and Android).
CardStar: Stores your merchant loyalty cards on your phone, so you won't miss out on points or discounts (free for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone).
"The majority of Americans haven't included financial documents in their disaster plan," says Jim Judge, of the American Red Cross's Scientific Advisory Council.
Be prepared: Scan the paperwork below onto two CDs. Keep one at home and one in a safe deposit box.
* Driver's license and passport
* Social Security card
* Health insurance card
* Insurance policies
* Mortgage and other loan papers
* Property deeds
* Car title and registration
* Marriage license
* Your will
* Last year's tax return
* Bank and brokerage account numbers
Today the average wireless customer pays $1,320 annually; cable customers shell out around $800.
BillShrink.com can help you reduce those costs. Fill out a quick worksheet -- your address, how much you pay, favorite channels, and so on -- and directly upload data from your phone account. The site will identify lower-cost providers based on your current usage and show you exactly how much you could save over two years.
Use the rest of the hour to cancel your current accounts
Stocks and Bonds:
Is anxiety about finding the perfect investment -- high growth potential! low risk! -- keeping you from making decisions about where to put your money? Don't let it.
Studies by the financial consulting firm Ibbotson Associates show that swings in your portfolio value are due more to your exposure to the stock market generally than the specific stocks, bonds, or mutual funds you pick.
How to do it: If you want to fine-tune the mix, check out CNNMoney's asset allocator tool.
Or, for a more hands-off approach, go for a target-date retirement fund from T. Rowe Price or Vanguard.These invest in a preset mix of stocks and bonds based on how far you are from retirement, and automatically grow more conservative as you near your quit date.
Cut the Clutter and Organize:
Invest a few hours in getting rid of the financial detritus that's filling your filing cabinet, and you'll take a psychic load off your shoulders, says therapist Debbie Stanley, author of "Organize Your Home in No Time."
The only stuff you need to keep (and how long to keep them):
Tax returns: Keep them forever.
Tax backup (receipts, W-2s, statements, etc.): Hang onto these for six years (the IRS has up to this amount of time to audit returns).
Pay stubs: Keep these until you get your W-2 in January.
Receipts for home improvements: Hold onto them for six years after you sell the home, for tax purposes.
Receipts for big-ticket purchases: Keep them for as long as you own the item, for warranty and insurance claims.
Year-end investment statements: Retain until six years after you sell, for proof of gains and losses for taxes.
Today 89% of firms use social media to find candidates, according to Jobvite.
Not seeking work? "The best time to create a digital footprint is before you're looking," says Miriam Salpeter, author of "Social Networking for Career Success." That way your next move can find you.
How to do it: If you're not yet on LinkedIn, the site most companies use to recruit, start by uploading your résumé. Include your entire job history, since profiles with multiple jobs are 12 times more likely to be viewed than those with one; add a photo, and your click-through rate increases by seven times.
Be sure to use keywords in your summary that are important in your industry (hint: check job ads to find them) so that you'll come up in searches.