Don’t give up on your retirement goals if you find you’ve entered middle age with little to no retirement savings. Sure, it may be harder to reach your retirement goals than if you had started in your 20s or 30s, but here are some strategies to consider:
Reanalyze your retirement goals. First, thoroughly analyze your situation. Calculate how much you need for retirement, what income sources will be available, how much you have saved, and how much you need to save annually to reach your goals. If you can’t save that amount, it may be time to change your goals. Consider postponing retirement for a few years so you have more time to accumulate savings as well as delay withdrawals from those savings. Think about working after retirement on at least a part-time basis. Even a modest amount of income after retirement can substantially reduce the amount you need to save. Look at lowering your expectations, possibly traveling less or moving to a less expensive city or smaller home.
Contribute the maximum to your 401(k) plan. Your contributions, up to a maximum of $19,500 in 2020 and 2021, are deducted from your current year
gross income. If you are age 50 or older, your plan may allow an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution, bringing your maximum contribution to $26,000. Find out if your employer offers a Roth 401(k) option. Even though you won’t get a current year tax deduction for your contributions, qualified withdrawals can be taken free of income taxes. If your employer matches contributions, you are essentially losing money when you don’t contribute enough to receive the maximum
matching contribution. Matching contributions can help significantly with your retirement savings. For example, assume your employer matches 50 cents on every dollar you contribute, up to a maximum of 6% of your pay. If you earn $75,000 and contribute 6% of your pay, you would contribute $4,500 and your employer would put in an additional $2,250.
Look into individual retirement accounts (IRAs). In 2020 and 2021, you can contribute a maximum of $6,000 to an IRA, plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution if you are age 50 or older. Even if you participate in a company sponsored retirement plan, you can make contributions to an IRA, provided your adjusted gross income does not exceed certain limits.
Reduce your pre-retirement expenses. Typically, you’ll want a retirement lifestyle similar to your lifestyle before retirement. Become a big saver now and you enjoy two advantages. First, you save significant sums for your retirement. Second, you’re living on much less than you’re earning, so you’ll need less for retirement. For instance, if you live on 100% of your income, you’ll have nothing left to save toward retirement. At retirement, you’ll probably need close to 100% of your income to continue your current lifestyle. With savings of 10% of your income, you’re living on 90% of your income. At retirement, you’ll probably be able to maintain your standard of living with 90% of your current income.
Move to a smaller home. As part of your efforts to reduce your pre-retirement lifestyle, consider selling your home and moving to a smaller one, especially if you have
significant equity in your home. If you’ve lived in your home for at least two of the previous five years, you can exclude $250,000 of gain if you are
a single taxpayer and $500,000 of gain if you are married filing jointly. At a minimum, this strategy will reduce your living expenses so you can save more. If you have significant equity in your home, you may be able to use some of the proceeds for savings.
Substantially increase your savings as you approach retirement. Typically, your last years of employment are your peak
earning years. Instead of increasing your lifestyle as your pay increases, save all pay raises. Anytime you pay off a major bill, such as an auto
loan or your child’s college tuition, take the money that was going toward that bill and put it in your
Restructure your debt. Check whether refinancing will reduce your monthly mortgage payment. Find less costly options for consumer debts, including credit
cards with high interest rates. Systematically
pay down your debts. And most important — don’t incur any new debt. If you can’t pay cash for something, don’t buy it.
When then Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan used this phrase 12-5-96 the DJIA closed at 6318; by 12-5-99 it was at 11,225, nearly double. Nobody knew the Tech Wreck was only three months away…
My friend Mark Zinder helps me add perspective to this column: ‘Yes, horrible things have happened this year, but let’s also remember the events that made us pause and chuckle, for example, the Pentagon finally released the UFO videos (and nobody really cared), San Francisco
voted to ban cigarette smoking in apartments but smoking marijuana in your apartment is still OK, and to top it all off, Oregon passed a bill that prohibits stores and restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws but this year decriminalized cocaine.’
Or as the great philosopher and Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over til the fat lady sings”.
So, remember to maintain perspective and that it ain’t over yet! If you or someone you know needs to be reminded of this, PLEASE contact me!