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Hedy’s Hints: 5 hidden ways to save for retirement

For many people, it’s difficult to save money. It takes discipline, foresight and a little sacrifice.

In addition, it helps if you take home a hefty paycheck each month, a luxury many of us don't enjoy. By the time you've paid your mortgage, utility bills, taxes, insurance, credit card bill and car note, and bought some gas and groceries, you may not have much left to save.

With all of these necessities and responsibilities coming at us each month, how are we supposed to even think about, much less save for retirement? We all know we should, because receiving Social Security is questionable and pensions are slowly fading away. The only way for many people to accomplish the goal of saving for their retirement is to arrange their finances in a way that prevents them from missing the money they are saving. Basically, pay yourself first, behind the scenes.

Here are five ways to save for retirement. These hidden methods can help you live your daily life while invisibly saving money.

1. Sign up for your company retirement plan. If your company offers a 401(k) plan or other retirement system, sign up immediately upon being hired! Don't wait until after you've paid off bills or paid the first month's rent. Sign up quickly, before you get used to having that extra money in your bank account. The idea is to make money and save wisely, so you never miss it. In the meantime, ask if your company matches your contributions. Don’t miss out on free money!

2. Don't leave money behind. If you have any previous employers, check with the human resources department about any established retirement plans you had, and make sure you're collecting all the old retirement credits you may have earned 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

3. Buy a house. This one is not an obvious choice. However, in the long run, despite periodic downturns in the housing market, buying a house and eventually paying off the mortgage is a proven way to force yourself into saving money. It's not a quick fix, but it can be part of a long-term plan to support yourself during retirement years. Living in a home that’s fully paid off when you reach retirement age brings great peace of mind and security. If you so choose, you can always sell. You have the option to move into a less expensive home or change locations to free up cash for your daily needs.

4. Save monetary gifts or winnings. Have a wedding coming up? Put away a portion of the money from family and friends or invest it into your first home together. If you're expecting a small or large inheritance, that can solve many of your retirement concerns. It can be nice to splurge a little, or do something your loved ones might have wanted you to do. But, if you can afford it, place 20 to 30 percent of your inheritance in your retirement fund. Do the same with a work bonus, a payout you get if you're laid off, or even a pile of cash you may win by playing the lottery or visiting a casino. You will more than likely thank yourself later.

5. Cultivate your retirement lifestyle. Almost everyone starts out thinking they need a lot of money to retire. Most of the time, that's true. Think about the other resources you have during retirement as well. Family, friends, and associations you belong to are non-monetary assets. If you establish great friends near your home, you might not feel the need to spend extra savings on travel or entertainment. If you have a child or children, they may be able to help you take care of your house and personal needs rather than moving into assisted living homes. Money is not everything, but as we all know, it can definitely help. Sometimes great relationships with family and friends can provide a fulfilling retirement at little to no cost.

Hedy Goldman has lots of knowledgeable information to share. She has been practicing real estate since 1996 and is a 2010 gold award winner at Windermere Real Estate SoCal. Hedy sells all over San Diego, but specializes in North County Coastal. She can be reached at (858) 504-2334 or San Diego Realtor.