Saving for retirement is emphasized almost from the moment we enter the workforce. However, some people don’t or are unable to get started early when it comes to retirement savings, and they can easily feel discouraged about their financial future. According to the most recent Retirement Confidence Survey, over one-third of people aged 45 to 54 and less than 25 percent over age 55 reported they had less than $25,000 in retirement savings. Making matters worse, 21 percent of Americans have nothing saved for retirement at all, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study.
Although the statistics are bleak, there is still hope for anyone who has not started saving for retirement. Even if you feel like saving for retirement is out of reach, there are some steps you can take to get back on track.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Being behind on your retirement seems overwhelming, but it’s important not to feel defeated. The key to getting on track with retirement savings is to make a plan. Getting started is an important step that begins with taking an honest look at your finances. Make a budget that accounts for your recurring expenses and includes categories for one-off expenses and entertainment. Look for areas where you can cut back and divert the money saved into your retirement account. Being consistent about reallocating funds can help you to gain control of your retirement savings.
Start a Dedicated Retirement Account
If you’re starting from zero, opening a retirement account is essential. If you are over 40 years old, you are legally able to save up to $17,000 a year in a 401K. With an average 7 percent return, you will reach $1 million in a little over 24 years. The amount saved will vary based on your rate of return and how much you’re able to stash away, but the more you save, the larger your retirement fund will be.
If you cannot realistically save the maximum, don’t be discouraged. What’s most important is saving to begin with, so don’t focus too much on the result; instead, focus on getting in the habit of actively growing your retirement account.
For those who either have no access to an employer-led 401K or have maxed out on their contribution, a Roth IRA is the ideal retirement savings solution. Roth IRAs provide a way to increase retirement savings, and all contributions and withdrawals are tax-free. Additionally, Roth IRAs are not subject to capital gains tax, which saves even more money.
Evaluate Your Current Financial Situation and Make Adjustments
Aside from creating a budget and seeing where funds can be allocated, it’s important to evaluate expenses that may be draining your finances. Debt is one of the major barriers to adequate retirement savings, as much of your debt payment must go toward interest rates that do nothing to improve your financial situation in the long run. If you have credit card debt, focus on paying it down as fast as possible to avoid unnecessary interest. The same approach also works with non-mortgage debt such as auto loans or other revolving lines of credit. As you are paying down debt, avoid taking on new debt and reallocate the money that would have been spent on those payments to your retirement account.
After tackling debt, it’s time to focus on ways to increase income. For those who are already financially strapped, finding the extra money needed to divert toward retirement savings is challenging. If your current income leaves little for savings, looking for additional sources of income may be the answer. Consider taking on a part-time job for a short time and use that money specifically for retirement savings.
If a part-time job or complete career change is not feasible, research passive income sources. Starting an online business, investing in stocks, and peer-to-peer lending are just a few of the top passive income ideas. Each can help you boost your retirement fund over time.
There Is Still Hope
Regardless of how much or how little you have saved toward retirement, there is still hope. Starting your retirement savings late is not always easy, but with planning and discipline, you can be in a better financial position once you reach retirement age.
Start by setting achievable savings goals and work hard to accomplish them. Continue looking for new ways to increase income, and put even more money toward retirement. It does not matter if you are 40 or 60 years old, the most important thing is to get started. Your future self will thank you.