A recent study by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) revealed that roughly 90 percent of Americans do not have enough retirement savings, even by conservative measures. When all households are included—not just households with retirement accounts—the median retirement account balance for near-retirement households is $12,000.
To put that in perspective, consider this: In its 2012 study on retirement income adequacy at large companies, financial advisory firm Aon Hewitt said that the average employee needs to have saved 11 times his or her annual pay—before Social Security—by age 65 in order to maintain pre-retirement living standards through retirement.
For someone making $50,000 per year, that’s $550,000.
If you’re nearing retirement and need to catch up on your savings, all is not lost. Consider the following to boost your retirement savings and help you live a more comfortable life after you leave the workforce.
1. Invest more in your 401(k)
Whether you’re in your 20s or your 50s, it’s always a good time to start putting more money in your 401(k). At the very least, you should pay the full amount that your employer will match. If you don’t, then you’re essentially getting paid less than your co-workers who take advantage of that program.
If your employer doesn’t match your contributions, you should still pay in as much as you can afford. A 40-year-old woman who pays $17,500 per year into her 401(k) will have over $1.3 million when she retires at 65 (assuming that the 401(k) has an 8 percent return). By contributing $437,500 over 25 years, you more than triple your money.
2. Contribute as much as possible to a Roth IRA
A Roth IRA has contribution limits that vary according to your age. People under 50 years old can only contribute up to $5,500. Those over 50 years old, however, can contribute up to $6,500.
If you are over 50, that extra $1,000 can make a big difference when you need to catch up on your retirement savings. It won’t fix the problem by itself, but it will definitely point you in the right direction. Even if you don’t open your Roth IRA until you turn 50, you can still save $190,000 or more by the time you retire. (This example also assumes an 8 percent return, which could be lower or higher than the real-world return.)
3. Move into a cheaper home
People nearing retirement often find that they don’t need the large houses they bought when they were younger. As your children grow up and move out, you may also want to consider moving into a home that costs less money. Some soon-to-be retirees may choose to rent instead of buy, opting for the freedom of living wherever they choose over being tied down by mortgage payments and home repair costs.
4. Adjust your monthly budget
The less money you spend, the more you can save. Ideally, your budget will shrink as you get older. Once you don’t have to spend money on your children and your home outright, you can adjust your monthly budget so that more of your income goes towards savings and investments.
If you continue to live a budget-conscious lifestyle after retirement, you should find that you enjoy approximately the same quality of life without spending as much money. This will require some sacrifice, but it will put you on the right track so that you can save money quickly and make retirement affordable.
Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and Iraqi combat veteran. He blogs at Good Financial Cents, Soldier of Finance and Life Insurance By Jeff.