How to Make Up for Your Financial Dark Years… and Then Some

Have you hit midlife and realize that the amount you’ve put away for retirement over the past 20-30 years of working is a mere pittance of what you’ll actually need?

You have tons of company…

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the median savings for households between ages 50 and 55 is only $8,000. And for those 56-61 it’s not much better … $17,000.

A mortgage, raising kids, student loans, and financial setbacks such as the Great Recession have caused many Americans to experience years, even decades, when they had little money for retirement savings.

For some… it’s just plain old procrastination.

And if you’re in your 50s, your earnings may have peaked and you should be squirreling away the most.

Simply put, this is a wakeup call that you have a lot of catching up to do.

But don’t panic or dwell on the past, because it’s not too late to start funding your retirement. But it is time to get serious, assuming you want to quit the grind in the next decade or so.

Start by …

Doing some belt-tightening

The first step is figuring out where your money is going each month and where you’re overspending.

Apps like Mint, Wela and Personal Capital — deeply discussed yesterday — will let you create a budget and track spending so you can cut expenses and use that money for your retirement savings. You can also set reminders on these apps to plan ahead, pay on time, and avoid late fees.

Meanwhile, get those credit cards paid off. Servicing that debt is costly.

Consider revising your retirement objective

If you’re willing to work a bit longer, you’ll have a few more years to boost your savings and postpone taking withdrawals from retirement funds.

In addition, working longer will allow you to delay Social Security benefits and build up additional earnings credits. For instance, the difference between collecting at age 66 vs. age 68 could mean a 16% bigger check each month for the rest of your life.

Working longer could also be good for your health, as discussed in a recent article. There is a big correlation between working and health, and if you cut out that huge part of your daily routine too early, it will be more detrimental than you anticipate.

Another idea is to start a part-time business such as becoming an Airbnb host now while you’re still working, a prospect whose benefits were discussed in this article. This would also give you extra income not only for retirement, but instantly.

Make the most of IRS rules

The IRS allows employees to put away up to $18,500 each year into 401(k) plans. And if you’re now 50 or older, you can make an additional $6,000 in catch-up contributions.

That’s a total of $24,500.

Do that on a monthly basis for 10 years and you’d have $336,315 assuming a 6% average annual before-tax return. Stick with it another three, and you’re looking at $483,187.

Plus your employer might match some of your contributions, fattening up your account balance even more!

Suppose though, that you don’t have a 401(k) or you want to sock away more money.

You can put $5,500 into an IRA. Catch-up contributions of $1,000 for anyone 50 and older will help. Moreover, contributions might be tax deductible.

$6,500 each year with a 6% annual return will give you another $89,267 in 10 years … $128,251 in 13.

As you see, in your 401(k) and IRA alone you could accumulate a whopping $611,438 in 13 years!

And after you fund those accounts, you can still put money into a savings or brokerage account each month.

Where would that money come from?

One idea is to…

Downsize before retiring

Many people wait until they retire before downsizing to a smaller, less expensive home.

But if you plan to stay in the area after retiring or can telecommute to work, why wait?

Any cash you have left over after buying a new home could go into your retirement savings or pay off credit cards. And assuming monthly household expenses will drop you’ll have even more money to put away.

It’s easy to look over your shoulder and get stuck by saying, “I wish I would have started earlier.” But rather than dwelling on the past, get started on your post-50 retirement saving plan.

And the best time to get started… is today.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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