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We are all familiar with cutting corners in tough economic times. Those $15 lunches a few times a week have been replaced with tuna sandwiches from the house and entertaining the clients is not an option unless we’re reimbursed fully by the company. We’re opting for better rates on everything from our cell plans to our satellite plans and that new den remodel has been put on hold for the short term. We have learned, says A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder, to do more with less – and for many of us, much less.

There is one area, however, that should not be trimmed if at all possible. Your retirement contributions to your 401(k) or other plan are still an important part of your overall plan. “Your career exit strategy should always be at the forefront of your thought process, especially in these tough times”, says the founder. Want incentive? The sacrifices you make now and those you refuse to budge on (your retirement contributions) will ensure you don’t have to feel these same financial pangs when you retire. If you can keep that in mind, says Barnes, odds are, you’re going to find it much easier to keep your retirement savings in tact.

If you haven’t already devised a career exit strategy, now’s a good time to do so. “It’s ideal for keeping perspective, especially in these uncertain times”, says Barnes. By keeping your eye on the ball, you’re going to be able to easily make those other transitions we all face, like your withdrawals from the lobster salad for lunch and the golf junkets on the company’s dime. Suddenly, you’re able to keep your focus if you know what’s being added to your savings each month; it’s a sense of satisfaction and the knowledge that regardless of what’s going on in the here and now, ultimately, your bases are covered. Nothing is as powerful as that sense, says the founder.

Another potential problem that you’ll need to be strong enough to pull through are those transitions to new jobs, especially if you’ve lost your current job due to a layoff. “The temptation exists to borrow against your retirement plan and while that’s the only option for many, your goal should be to avoid it and when that’s not possible, to make it priority one to repay”. For every day that money’s out of your retirement account, that’s a day it’s not earning interest and working for you.

With just a bit of discipline, a healthy dose of reality and a commitment to you and your family’s future, you can navigate these choppy waters until smooth sailing once again finds you. It’s what you make it and it really does come down to your own level of self-discipline. In the long run, though, you’ll discover it’s a decision you’ll never regret, says A. Harrison Barnes.

For more information on A. Harrison Barnes, career coach and founder, visit his blog at

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