Reality check on your retirement savings

You probably didn’t realize it, but the third week in October was National Retirement Security Week.

Before you write it off as just another one of those useless “branded” calendar items like National Muffin Week, think of it this way: This is the perfect time to do a reality check on your retirement savings plans.

This was actually the 10th anniversary of Save for Retirement Week, established as part of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which, among other things, allowed companies to automatically enroll employees in 401(k) plans. That legislation been credited with dramatically increasing the number of workers participating in those plans nationwide. This is also the time of year that companies have their annual benefits and 401(k) open enrollment. That’s why it’s a perfect time to do that financial checkup.

Spencer Williams, president of the Retirement Clearinghouse in Charlotte, N.C., says you should think of the week as a reminder — much like a grocery list. “It reminds us what we are supposed to do. We live in a really busy world. It’s a little extra nudge.”

State Street Global Advisors, one of the nation’s largest managers of defined contribution assets, has a few tips to help in your checkup.

Max out your employer’s match. Don’t leave money on the table. If you can’t afford to meet the match, slowly increase your contribution over time.

Increase the amount you are saving. Ideally you should save 15 percent of your salary.

Check out the resources provided by your employer. Many are now offering financial wellness programs that come with financial education, financial coaching and long-term planning aids and other resources.

If you are over 50, take advantage of catch-up provisions. You can contribute an additional $6,000 to you retirement plan, or up to $24,000 this year

Don’t borrow from your 401(k), as tempting as it may be. Start an emergency savings fund to help get you through emergencies.

Consolidate your retirement savings from previous jobs into your current job’s plan.