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Unconventional Ways to Save for Retirement

Unconventional Ways to Save for Retirement

Good ideas can come from absolutely anywhere. That includes suggestions for how to save for your retirement.

Not ones to be greedy, we thought it could be beneficial to pass along some of our favorite not-your-mom’s-IRA ways to feed your retirement piggy bank. (Of course, the old standard methods of saving for retirement are still fantastic options to consider!)

Why You Should Have Retirement Savings

Before we swan dive into the deep end of the retirement planning strategy pool, let’s wade into the shallow end for a moment. It can be helpful to understand why you’re saving money now and over the course of the next X number of years for a retirement that seems vague and in the far-off future. Having a clear sense of purpose can make sticking to your money-saving plan easier and more palatable.

Here are some common reasons to save for retirement:

  • Social security checks and Medicare might not be enough to cover your needs.
  • There are tax advantages to drawing off retirement savings when you’re older.
  • Compound interest! Your money generates more money.
  • You don’t want to have to get a retirement job.
  • You want to maintain a certain lifestyle or standard of living.
  • You don’t want to have to rely on family to support you.
  • A feeling of financial security or freedom is important to you.

Every time you want to blow your retirement savings instead of socking it away, think back to your “Whys.”

How Much Do You Need for Retirement

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this very common and appropriate question. This is because each person’s requirements and situation are unique.

The amount you need to save each week or month depends on how much you’ll need in total for the duration of your retirement. So many factors can impact this, including:

  • Current and future income
  • Spending during retirement
  • How long your savings horizon is
  • How aggressive your investments are

You can get more in-depth info on how much to save for retirement (and so much more — like a retirement savings calculator!) in our How to Save for Retirement with a Credit Union post. It’s worth your while to check it out!

Retirement Savings Statistics

To put retirement savings into perspective, you might be interested in some facts and figures. According to a 2021 article from The Motley Fool, here are some stats to ponder:

  • 40% of Americans don’t think they’ll be able to retire due to insufficient resources.
  • The average retirement savings in the US is $65K per household. This average varies tremendously if you filter by age group, education level, race/ethnicity, or other demographics.
  • Just over half of all non-retirees have a 401(k)-type retirement savings account whereas 25% have no retirement nest egg incubating.
  • Almost 75% of Americans retire by the age of 64.

Traditional Approaches to Retirement Saving

Everyday financial instruments designed to help you save for retirement might include:

These are tried-and-true savings vehicles. One or more may be an excellent option for your particular situation. Valley Credit Union can assist you in exploring these financial products, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

Beyond the Retirement Savings Accounts

While you definitely shouldn’t discount those aforementioned conventional approaches to retirement saving (There’s a reason they’re popular and enjoy longevity!), sometimes you want fresh, out-of-the-box inspiration. How about some of these?

Ways to Save & Stretch Your Retirement Dollars


Investments & Savings

If you’re looking for places to put your money before and during retirement...

  1. Use services that auto-invest spare change on your behalf. A number of companies offer products that take the difference between your purchases and the next whole dollar and micro-invest for you.
  2. Buy investment property to rent out or flip.
  3. Enter retirement debt-free. Financing debt can be costly, so paying off debt may be a smart move.
  4. Move somewhere with a lower cost of living or a more advantageous tax scheme. This could include retiring abroad.
  5. Purchase other kinds of investments — like ETFs, bonds, REITs. Many are relatively liquid (meaning you can quickly and easily sell them to access the cash) and/or offer dividends.

More Money In, Less Money Out

If you want to save more prior to or in retirement or extend your retirement income (aka slow the outflow from retirement savings)...

  1. Join discount and rewards programs that save you money or give cashback rewards.
  2. One word: downsize! Cutting expenses is a legitimate way to discover more money to apply towards retirement.
  3. Ease into retirement. A partial retirement is always an option. So is taking an extended time off from working and then rejoining the workforce in some form.
  4. Join the gig economy. This could be anything from driving for a ridesharing company to babysitting to becoming a notary public to taking on students to tutor.
  5. Get a reverse mortgage.
  6. Consider medical tourism if you have an expensive healthcare need.
  7. Make money from a hobby or passion. It’s never too late to start an online store for your handicrafts!
  8. Explore a new career.
  9. Reduce your tax obligation. Savvy income planning can cut your retirement years’ tax bills.
  10. Reinvest unneeded income from your retirement investments.
  11. Rent out all or part of your home or property.
  12. Sell ad space on your home, lawn, car, etc. If you’re in a desirable location, companies may be willing to pay you for that visibility.
  13. Sell stuff — antiques, collectibles, junk piled in your garage — that you no longer need or use.

Obviously, not every item in this list is suitable or accessible to every person. Nor do we advocate for any of these in particular. Each person needs to evaluate available retirement savings opportunities through the lens of his or her own life. Talk to a financial professional if you need help figuring it all out. 

Owning Your Unconventional Retirement Savings Strategies

Do any of these ideas strike a chord with you? Can you envision how you might weave any of these techniques into your retirement saving plan? Have they sparked any other ideas for creative retirement savings?


We recommend writing down the methods that appeal to you, how you could make them work for yourself, and how they could dovetail into the traditional savings mechanisms you’re already using. Documenting your plan significantly increases your likelihood of achieving your desired outcomes because it helps you stay organized and focused as time marches on.

Valley Credit Union, An Uncommonly Great Ally in Retirement Planning

Your financial health and wellbeing — at every stage of your life — is important to us at VCU. As you plan for your retirement years, we’re here to help. We want your golden years to sparkle and gleam, too! If there’s any way we can bolster your efforts to make that happen — let us know.

Our talented and caring team of experts is ready to work with you. Together, we can find ways for you to reach your long-term money goals so that you can enjoy a comfortable, adequately-funded retirement. With Valley Credit Union’s many banking products and services, planning and saving are easier than ever.

Contact us today to discuss your roadmap to retirement and how to increase your chances of making it a success.

About the Author

 Justin Roberts, Vice President of Lending

Justin Roberts is our Vice President of Lending and has been in the financial industry for over 18 years. He is an Oregon State University Graduate and has just completed Western CUNA Management School. When he is not focused on helping the members at Valley, you will find him coaching his two sons and volunteering his time to help develop the youth in our communities through sports.

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