Being behind on retirement sucks; if that’s you, you’re not alone. Me and about 55% of Americans say they are behind on retirement. It’s so easy to put your head in the sand and ignore it because that’s what I’ve done in the past. However, nothing is going to change until you take action. So, I wanted to share tips and what I’m doing to catch up on my retirement.
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I always like to say this at the beginning of each article. I’m NOT a financial advisor. I’m just someone sharing their journey of catching up on retirement, investing, and earning more money.
Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s get started.
Are You Behind On Retirement?
It’s not hard to find out whether you’re behind or not. According to Investopedia, by age 50, you should have six times your annual salary saved in your retirement.
The amounts saved will vary depending on your age, but I’m talking to you 50-year-olds because that’s how old I am.
If you’re older or younger, head to Investopedia to find out how much you should have saved based on age.
So are you behind? If not, great; continue doing what you’re doing. If you’re like me and way behind, here’s what to do.
It’s easy to panic when you realize you’re behind on retirement. I know I did when I just started my self-employed 401k at 50. However, panicking won’t do you any good.
Instead, admit that you’re behind and consider increasing your contributions and exploring strategies to catch up.
Assessing Your Retirement Savings
To know whether you’re on track, you need to start by evaluating your current nest egg. This includes compiling a list of all your retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, including brokerage accounts you plan on using in retirement.
You don’t need to invest in any fancy tools. Instead, use a spreadsheet to total up your desired retirement lifestyle and estimate your expected expenses during retirement. Yes, it’s hard to factor in healthcare, as those expenses increase yearly.
I haven’t quite got that part figured out on how much to budget for healthcare in retirement. I’m doing everything possible to stay healthy by eating a good diet and exercising while I’m still young.
For now, I’m not considering my future healthcare. Instead, I’m saving as much as I can for retirement. After all, there’s no reason to get hung up on how much I’ll need for medical when I don’t have enough to live my regular lifestyle.
Figuring Out Your Monthly Budget And Costs
The best way to show you how to calculate your bills is to show you what my monthly bills look like. Below is what I have to pay each month and how much I need for my retirement to pay for when I walk away from my job.
- Rent: $750
- Electricity: $125 or higher, depending on the time of year
- Water: $22
- Streaming Subscriptions: $300 per year (I can always cut back on this)
- School Loans: $400 monthly (I plan to pay these off in the next 2-3 years).
- Groceries: $350 monthly; you can control this by buying in bulk or generic.
- Gas: $200 monthly (Once you leave your job, you won’t have to commute to work anymore).
- Car Insurance: $800 yearly, be sure to shop around for better prices. I changed my car insurance a few months ago and saved over $400 annually.
This is a rough draft and doesn’t include everything I pay monthly. I just wanted to give you an idea of how to do it. When figuring out your monthly budget, don’t rush you.
Make sure you account for everything you need, even if you overestimate how much you’ll need. It’s better to save more than you’ll need than not enough money. Watch this video that shares tips on how to retire on 500k.
Everyone’s bills will be different. For example, some people will have mortgages, car payments, medical bills, etc. The most important thing is to figure out your budget. It’s the only way to know how much you’ll need for retirement.
For instance, I need $1,917 monthly or $23.004 annually just to be able to pay my bills.
This doesn’t include any hobbies, traveling, emergencies, or anything fun we’d like to do. If I wanted to pay myself $30,000 annually, I would need to save more than $500,000 (which can change based on inflation).
Of course, some people retire with less than $500k and can live a comfortable life. So it just depends on your lifestyle. The best thing to do is play around with different retirement calculators to determine how much you’ll need to save.
Unfortunately, I’m nowhere close to that amount of savings, even if I calculate all my investments, including my brokerage accounts.
Increase Your Retirement Savings Rate
To catch up on your retirement savings, consider options such as boosting retirement savings to about 18% of your salary, maxing out retirement plan contributions, or even delaying retirement to provide more time to save and potentially benefit from employer-sponsored plans.
Here are some suggested savings rates based on your age:
- 20s: Save at least 10% of your income (the earlier you start the better)
- 30s: Save 15% to 20% of your income
- 40s and beyond: Save 20% or more of your income
Unfortunately, if you’ve waited till your 50s like I did, you’ll have to shovel money into your accounts. Last year, I invested over $57,000 into all my retirement accounts, which was more than 60% of my yearly income.
This year, I got a part-time job to help me save even more. Unfortunately, my business income has fallen this year, and I’m not sure if I’ll gross as much as I made last year.
However, I’m pushing as much as I can into my Roth, 401k and even my brokerage accounts. I may not be able to retire with 500k, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
How To Increase Your Retirement Savings?
When catching up for retirement, you must find ways to increase your income. Unfortunately, at this stage in life, investing 10-20% isn’t going to cut it.
Of course, if that’s all you can save, then don’t let me discourage you. At this point, anything is better than nothing.
Here are some tips for people who want to shovel as much money as possible to boost their retirement accounts.
Maximizing Your Employer Match
The first place to improve your retirement is to make sure you’re taking advantage of your employer’s 401k match. This may sound easy, but 1 in 5 Americans miss out on the free money.
Make it a priority to contribute at least enough to receive the full employer match. If you’re unsure about your company’s policy, speak to your HR department to better understand the matching program.
Open A Roth IRA
Once you’ve increased your contributions to get the employer match, consider starting a Roth IRA. This is another excellent retirement vehicle that will allow you to boost your retirement. Before opening a Roth IRA, make sure you meet the required eligibility requirements.
Put Your Investments on Auto-Pilot
Consider setting up automatic contributions to your retirement accounts.
This ensures that your savings grow consistently without any effort on your part. Additionally, increase your contributions by as much as you can; even a small amount can have a significant impact over the long term.
For example, boosting your retirement plan contributions by $50 a month can make a substantial difference over several years.
Avoid Individual Stocks
Investing for retirement doesn’t have to be risky as long as you avoid individual stocks. While there are always risks when you invest money in the stock market.
You can minimize your risk by investing in an ETF or index fund like the Total Stock Market (VTSAX). I don’t have any individual stocks in any of my retirement accounts. Here’s what I have in my retirement accounts:
- Roth: VTSAX (Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund Admiral Shares)
- Solo 401k: FSKAX (Fidelity Total Market Index Fund)
- Lowes 401k: VTTHX (Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 Fund)
I’m not suggesting you invest in what I’m investing. Instead, I’m showing you that my retirement accounts hold index and mutual funds. The funds above don’t get any more diverse than what I’m investing in.
Once I invest the money into these accounts, I don’t plan on touching it for the next 15 years or longer.
If you want to invest in individual stocks, open up a brokerage. That’s what I did, and it’s where I invest in dividend stocks.
Seek Professional Help
I don’t think you need to seek help; I do all my own investing by myself. However, I realize that some people are not comfortable are not comfortable or even scared to start investing.
If this is you, look for a financial planner or advisor to help tailor an investment plan for your specific situation.
A financial advisor can help you make the best decisions in various areas of planning, including long-term care and other potential retirement expenses. That said, when hiring a financial planner, find out what their fees are in advance.
Some charge ridiculous fees, which can take a huge bite out of your investments, especially when you’re already behind.
In addition to seeking help from a financial planner or advisor, consider using a robo-advisor. Robo-advisors are digital platforms that use algorithms to provide automated investment management services.
They typically offer low-cost and accessible solutions tailored to your risk tolerance, financial goals, and time horizon.
While robo-advisors may lack the personal touch and in-depth advice of a human advisor, they can be a suitable option for those looking for a simplified, low-cost way to invest in their retirement.
Some popular robo-advisors include Betterment, Wealthfront, and Schwab Intelligent Portfolios.
Using Free Tools and Calculators
Many calculators also allow you to tweak variables like inflation, investment return rates, and post-retirement living expenses, so you can develop a more accurate projection.
Using these calculated projections, you can better assess if you’re on track with your retirement goals and make necessary adjustments to your contributions or plans.
Saving for retirement is hard, don’t let anyone tell you differently. If it was easy, more people would be better prepared for their golden years.
However, by creating a strong and realistic budget, you will have a better chance of reaching your financial goals.
Adapting to Market Changes and Inflation
If I’ve learned anything in 2023, you need to be ready for the impacts of market downturns and inflation. Thankfully, I’m not pulling the money out of my retirement accounts this year because so many people’s 401ks have lost a lot.
However, this whole situation has made me realize that I need to start saving cash as well as investing. So I recently opened a Goldman Sachs account (here’s my link if you sign up with my link, we’ll both get a higher interest for 3 months), and I’m putting as much cash as I can into the account.
I’m using the Goldman Sachs High Yield Savings account for emergencies and building up a cash reserve I’ll use when I retire. My plan is to save 1-2 years of my annual budget; that way, if the market is doing horribly when the time comes that I need to live off my retirement, I won’t have to live off my retirement.
I know that’s a lot to do to catch up on your retirement. But, remember, I said it wasn’t easy.
It sucks being behind on your retirement, but it’s never too late to catch up. The first step is to admit you’re behind and figure out what to do to catch up.
If you can’t do everything I’m doing to catch up, just do one thing. The easiest way to increase your retirement savings is to maximize your employer’s plan.
Pay off all your debts to reduce your expenses in retirement. This may involve refinancing loans, cutting discretionary spending, or even downsizing their living situation.
Doing so can free up more money to allocate toward retirement savings. Put any extra money into the market as soon as possible, don’t try to time the market.