For many of us, the early decades of adulthood go by in a blur. Life after college is filled with fun times and friends, then you might have gotten married and had kids – and after that, between working and raising a family, it seems like you’re suddenly 50 years old and haven’t dedicated as much attention and money to your upcoming retirement as you would have liked. Sound familiar?
If so, you’re not alone.
A poll conducted by Bankrate revealed that more than 25% of survey respondents between the age of 50 and 64 said they had not started saving for retirement.
What’s more, another study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute showed that 28% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings that could be used toward retirement.1 Uncertainty about your financial future is definitely a cause for concern, but there’s no need to hit the panic button just yet – there are ways you can catch up on your retirement savings.
First, focus on saving as much as you can and start right away.
Contributing the maximum amount to your retirement accounts is an easy place to begin – currently, the annual limit in 2018 for a 401(k) is $18,500 plus $6,000 in catch-up contributions if you’re 50 or older. You may also be able to set aside another $6,500 ($5,500 plus a $1,000 catch up) in a traditional or Roth IRA. These accounts can bolster your portfolio, especially if your employer has a 401(k) match program.
Another tactic is to plan on working longer.
In addition to having more time to earn income and investment returns on new and existing savings, working extra years may help you enjoy a greater Social Security benefit down the road. Each year you postpone taking benefits between the age of 62 and 70, your eventual benefit increases by about 8%.2 This combination of extra years earning income, increased savings and greater Social Security benefits can help to make a major difference in the amount of retirement savings you accumulate.
Finally, think creatively about how to reduce expenses and earn extra income – and this doesn’t mean selling your kidney on the black market or anything else sketchy.
In this new “gig economy,” there are plenty of opportunities to find supplemental work as a consultant or freelancer and the extra money earned from these jobs can add up faster than you might think. In addition, consider your housing situation – mortgage and general upkeep costs typically make up a significant portion of a person’s overall expenses so figuring out a way to reduce them can free up money that may help contribute to your retirement savings. If you have a good amount of equity in your home, it might make sense to downsize to someplace smaller. The four-bedroom house you raised your family in may not be the best fit anymore after your kids have flown the nest.
As you think through these strategies, consulting with an advisor can also be helpful. These professionals work with people in your situation every day and can help provide valuable insight into how to get from where you are now to where you want to be.
Catching up on your retirement savings may feel like an overwhelming project, but by turning your attention to it immediately and staying committed to it, you can help improve the chances that your golden years could be more enjoyable, not worrisome.