Even though all indications are that the economy is recovering, that doesn't necessarily mean that a large raise is on the near-term horizon for you. Your best bet for the near term is to make your current salary stretch farther. Here are some thoughts on how to do that:
- Deposit your paycheck directly into your bank account. That way, you will be less tempted to cash part of your paycheck and spend it.
- Contribute to your 401(k) plan. Any contributions you make are deducted before income taxes, so you won't pay any current federal income taxes on your contributions. In addition, many employers match some portion of your contribution, which can substantially increase your 401(k) balance at no cost to you.
- Check out your 401(k) contributions. Your job isn't finished once you make contributions to your 401(k) plan. You are also responsible for investing those contributions. Make sure you are familiar with all options in your plan and review those options at least annually. Even if you only increase your rate of return by a percent or so, that can make a big difference in your ultimate 401(k) balance over several decades.
- Review your health insurance coverage. If your employer offers more than one option, review those choices carefully to select the most appropriate insurance for the least cost. When your spouse also has coverage, review options from both employers and determine which is the best alternative for you.
- Take a look at other fringe benefits offered by your company. Many employers provide a variety of fringe benefits. Not only do they provide needed benefits, you often receive them without paying any income taxes. Thus, carefully assess your company's fringe benefit package to ensure you are utilizing all appropriate ones.