By Lauren Lyons Cole/Business Insider
September 25, 2017

Saving money is easier said than done.

But there’s no way around it: To set yourself up for a secure financial future, you have to have money in the bank.

For most people, having a little cash leftover each month is doable. After taxes and expenses, the average American manages to put away 3.5% of their income, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

That’s better than nothing, but to get to the expert-recommended 10% or 15% each month, you have to put in effort.

At times — like when you are between jobs or are dealing with expensive medical bills — saving money won’t be possible, no matter how hard you try. And that’s okay.

But sometimes, you know you could be saving more than you are. That’s when it’s worth taking a hard look at your spending habits, and cutting back in some areas so you can direct more money to your 401(k), IRA, emergency fund — or all of the above.

If you need motivation to kick your goals into gear, check out Fidelity’s recommended retirement savings benchmarks in the chart below.

Keep in mind, these are just guidelines. If you’re behind on saving for retirement, you can always take steps today or in the future to catch up as much as possible.

And, there is good news. You don’t have to save every penny of the amounts above to get to your goal.

Your savings will grow exponentially if you invest the money you save. Investing can be risky — sometimes your account balances will dip. But as long as you don’t need the money when it does (and if you’re far from retirement, you won’t), then you have plenty of time to enjoy the flip side of the coin: when the stock market is soaring.

So far in 2017, the S&P 500 index is up over 10%. That means, if you invested $1,000 in January, you now have more than $1,100 without doing anything else. The index, which represents the 500 largest publicly-traded US companies, has grown by over 250% since its lowest point in March 2009 during the financial crisis. From that time until now, $1,000 would have grown to more than $2,500.

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In fact, missing out on stock market growth spurts is actually riskier than not investing at all.

By saving a bit more today — and making sure to invest as well — you can create momentum toward saving even more in the future. It’ll all be worth it when you’re relaxing on a beach during retirement.

This article originally appeared in Business Insider.

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