4 ways to help yourself retire a little earlier

Preparing for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. You do a little each and every month to reach your ultimate goal.

You might not see your savings and investments grow much on a day to day basis, but if you've been sensible and consistent, one day a few decades down the road you'll realise you're not far from being able to voluntarily leave the workforce.

Make that day come just a wee bit earlier or retire in a bit more comfort by giving your retirement plan a little boost in these four ways.

Get a side income

For most people, preparing for retirement means putting aside a portion of their monthly salary every month to save and invest.

Give your monthly revenue a booth by finding alternative income sources and you'll supercharge your retirement contributions.

For those who are still young, strong and motivated, starting a side business, taking on a side job like driving for Grab, giving tuition or working as a freelancer are all viable options.

However, not everyone is willing to invest so much time into earning a side income. You can also try to earn a side income from your assets, such as by renting out rooms in your home, putting your condo unit up on Airbnb when you're away on holiday or buying dividend-yielding stocks.

Find ways to consistently invest your money

The key to retiring comfortably, other than striking Toto, is to start investing for retirement as early as possible.

The earlier you start, the more time your money will have time to grow and take advantage of compounding interest. Conversely, leaving your money in the bank causes its value to get eroded by inflation.

It is thus important that you find a way to consistently invest your money as early on as possible. Consistency is important because your cash needs to be invested with some regularity. You do not want to wait till you can afford to buy property in 10 years' time, or until the next economic downtown before you buy a bunch of stocks.

Some of the simplest investing methods is the dollar cost averaging strategy. Simply put, you invest a fixed amount of cash in, say, the STI ETF every month/quarter/year. This method isn't for everyone, but if you are clueless about investing it might be good enough. One way to do this is through a regular savings plan such as OCBC's Blue Chip Investment Plan or POSB Invest Saver.

Lower your cost of living

Unless you are extremely frugal and disciplined, there are probably some corners you can cut here and there to bring down your cost of living.

Each time you decide to spend less on something, you are freeing up cash that can then be invested for retirement.

For instance, let's say you have a gym membership that costs you $1,500 a year. By doing away with it and investing that $1,500 for a period of 30 years at a return of 3 per cent per annum, that cash will eventually be worth $3,640.89.

So it really pays to track your spending, determine which areas where you could spend less, and then exercise a bit of discipline to bring those figures down.

Eating at restaurants less and cooking a bit more, taking public transport instead of cabs, cancelling unnecessary subscriptions and shopping less are just some ways you can reduce your spending.

Consider transferring cash from your CPF Ordinary Account to your CPF Special Account

This isn't for everyone, as many Singaporeans need their CPF OA money in order to buy a home.

But if you have already bought a home, don't plan to buy one or don't think you will need your CPF money to buy property, you might want to consider transferring the excess Ordinary Account money into your Special Account.

The interest rate for money in your CPF OA is currently 2.5 per cent. But the interest rate for money in your Special Account is 4 per cent. Transferring your money from the former into the latter would enable it to grow much faster.

The only catch is that once you transfer money into your Special Account, you can no longer use it for other things like housing and investment, and you'll only be able to touch it when you are old enough to make withdrawals.

So make sure you consider your financial needs before you make the transfer.