“Over-the-hill” surprise birthday parties can be fun. But one shock you don’t want in your 50s is the realization that you’ve completely overlooked retirement or are significantly behind where you need to be.
No matter why you’re falling short, if you are, it’s time for a retirement offensive. Here are a few things to consider as you try to re-energize your savings game.
1. FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH YOU NEED
A healthy nest egg is anywhere from six to 20 times your ending salary at the time of retirement, depending on your age when you retire and the proportion of your working income you want to have available each year. If you can, include an extra cushion for emergency expenses. Research shows most Americans don’t save anywhere near enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in their later years.
2. SPEND ONLY WHAT YOU MUST
If you’re over 50 and your retirement fund is in the hole or nonexistent, you can’t afford a flashy new car, a boat or a vacation hideaway. Focus instead on saving by cutting unnecessary expenses such as pricey coffee drinks, restaurant meals, expensive entertainment or big-ticket vacations.
3. BEEF UP YOUR 401(K) CONTRIBUTION
Particularly if your employer matches a portion of your 401(k) contribution, put in as much as possible. Remember, time is money. The longer the money has to earn returns, most likely the better off you’ll be. Even if you start late, tacking on a few extra years of saving can make a difference.
4. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CATCH-UP PROVISIONS
Federal law limits how much you can put into a tax-advantaged retirement account each year. After reaching 50 years old, you can make annual catch-up contributions, including up to $6,000 in a 401(k) in 2015 - 2018 and $1,000 in a traditional IRA, or individual retirement arrangement. Put in as much as you can.
5. WAIT TO TAKE SOCIAL SECURITY
Holding off before staring to collect Social Security payments can make a significant difference in how much you collect. Although you can start collecting benefits at 62, your benefit can increase up to 30% if you wait to receive benefits until you’re 67.
6. REFRAME THE IDEA OF ‘RETIREMENT’
Getting a later start on saving significant cash for retirement means you might need to rethink what those years will be like. You might need to move to a smaller home, sell a car or keep working at least part-time just to stay afloat.
Depending on how little you’ve already saved compared with where you need to be, you might feel like you’re speeding toward a cliff. Don’t let that keep you from starting now to get serious and save. Every bit you put aside now will make a difference later.
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