10 rules for saving for retirement, and the retirement savings calculators to help

It's never too early to start your retirement savings, but, as too many people are finding out the hard way, it can be too late. Make use of tools like free online retirement savings calculators and start building your retirement savings now.

Here are our top 10 rules for building your retirement savings, complete with retirement savings calculators to help you do the math.

1. Be realistic with your retirement savings goals.

You may have fantasies of taking a yacht around the world, but you have to plan your retirement savings according to your real needs, not your ideal wants. Use a retirement savings calculator to figure out how much you'll need to supplement Social Security, pensions and annuities, and aim straight for that retirement savings target.

Figure out what your retirement income will be with this retirement savings calculator; and what your expenses will be with this retirement savings calculator. For more information on Social Security, go to this retirement savings calculator.

2. Start your retirement savings sooner rather than later.
As you watch your retirement savings build, you'll come to appreciate the beauty of two key words: compound interest. The earlier you start your retirement savings, the harder your money will work for you.

3.Contribute to your 401(k).
Despite the recession era jokes about 201(k)s, this may still be one of the best ways to build a retirement savings. You still get an easy, tax-deducted, tax-deferred retirement savings account. Even if your company has stopped matching, think not of the temporary losses, but of the long-term retirement savings.

4. Start an IRA.
IRAs have been the go-to retirement savings havens for years basically because they work. Look into a traditional IRA, for which you can claim a deduction for your contribution but will pay taxes when you withdraw, and a Roth IRA, which doesn't allow you to deduct your contributions but provides tax-free growth, so you pay no taxes when you withdraw your retirement savings. For retirement savings calculators that help you figure out everything from when to start to how much you should contribute, go here.

5.Start investing in stocks.
Sure, it's been a rollercoaster ride, but you can still pick up stocks for pretty low prices, and they arguably provide your best chance to see high returns on your retirement savings over a long period of time. If retirement is far enough away, you can probably take on the risk for the prospect of boosting your retirement savings.

But don't get too set on individual stock picks-make sure your portfolio is diversified, and you'll see a bigger long-term boost to your retirement savings. Use these stock calculators.

6.Rethink CDs and bonds.
While stocks can seem risky, you can also play it too safe when it comes to retirement savings. Don't move too heavily in this direction of CDs and bonds, since inflation can outpace the interest you'll make on these retirement savings options. Use this retirement savings calculator to figure out your bond options.

7. Pay the lowest possible tax rates on your retirement savings.
As mentioned above, you should make the most of tax-deferred retirement savings accounts, like 401(k)s and IRAs. Then, when you do have to pay taxes on withdrawals, get advice from retirement savings experts.

For example, they may advise you to transfer some income from your taxable accounts to your tax-deferred accounts early in your retirement. What happens if tax laws change? Go to this retirement savings calculator to find out.

8.Get rid of debt.
One of the biggest obstacles to retirement savings is amassing more debt. Pay off your debts as quickly as possible so you can stop making payments and start building retirement savings. This retirement savings calculator can help you figure out your debt vs. credit.

9. Consider working longer.
Working a few more years before retiring or even part time during retirement can help stretch out your retirement savings for later years. That way, you can withdraw less from your retirement savings annually, and you get the added bonus of staying active and social.

10.Make a lifestyle change now to boost retirement savings later.
For example, consider moving to a state or an area with a lower cost of living. Might sound radical, but downgrading can make sense if you need to stock up on retirement savings as quickly as possible. Use this retirement savings calculator to figure out if you need to make some changes.
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