More than one-third of Americans have little to no money saved for retirement. Most of them are part of generation X, who were most affected by the Great Recession of 2008.1 They lost almost half of their net wealth during a time when they carried hefty financial obligations including mortgages, aging parents, and children – some of whom were entering adulthood. On the other hand there are two-thirds of Americans that have saved for retirement, but have they save enough to retire the way they want to? Can they take all the trips they have been dreaming of, or spend as much time with the grandkids as they wish?
1. Save more.
This is probably the most obvious step to take. Because your 50s are typically your peak earning years, the IRS lets you save more money in your retirement plans starting the year you turn 50. Talk with your financial representative to learn more about your specific situation.2
2. Protect your income.
Guarding your earning potential is imperative in your 50s. An accident or unexpected, serious illness or diagnosis could pull you off your savings path. Who can afford expensive medical bills and lost wages? Be sure to review any disability insurance you might have through your employer or an individual plan. Understand your policy well enough to know whether you have the best coverage for your situation. Learn the details. For example, how long does it take for your benefit to start when you are sick? The longer the elimination period, the more out-of-pocket expenses you might have before your benefits are available.3
3. Generate more income.
Look for ways to create additional income that you can use to increase savings now and augment your retirement later. You might consider writing a book or a blog, teaching at a local college, or leveraging your expertise in other ways. Do you have a business idea you can act on?4
4. Consider downsizing.
Even if the value of your home has not returned to its former value, think about moving into a smaller home. It could save you thousands of dollars a year in taxes, utility costs, maintenance and repairs, and insurance. That could be money you redirect into retirement savings.5
5. Use technology to help you save and track your spending.
Research savings, micro-investing, and tracking apps that allow you to keep close track of your money. Savings apps connect to your credit card, round up totals, and put the difference into a savings account. Micro-investing apps allow you to invest small increments of money, even as little as $5. Other apps let you track your spending habits and determine where your money goes so you can cut wasteful spending.6
6. Weigh your Social Security options.
Although you are eligible to file for Social Security benefits when you turn 62, if you do it then, your monthly check will be reduced for the rest of your life. If you have the ability to work a few more years or you have other sources of income, consider delaying your Social Security checks—at least until you turn 66. This could increase your monthly benefits by 30%. Early in 2017, the Social Security Administration launched an online tool that lets you review your earnings record and estimate your benefits. Check this annually to ensure accuracy; unreported and underreported income could reduce your monthly payments. Visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount for that information.7
7. Keep working if you can.
Working longer can boost your retirement possibilities. You might save more, and that savings will have time to potentially grow and enhance the size of your retirement nest egg. Additionally, the longer you are able to work, the fewer years your nest egg has to fund your retirement.8
8. Reexamine how much you will need in retirement.
Based on your situation, create a hypothetical budget to see what is realistic. Then, while you are still working, live on that hypothetical budget—on your projected income. This will force you to trim your spending and, in turn, allow you to save more.9 Whatever your reasons are for not saving more for the retirement lifestyle you want — whether it was the Great Recession, a life – altering medical diagnosis, a financial setback, a job loss, or a business venture that did not pan out—do not agonize over it. Just start taking positive steps today to begin improving your financial situation now. That way you can aim for a happier, more adequately funded retirement in the future.
Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.