4 ways to shore up your retirement savings before it’s too late
Senior couple in front of laptop looking over finances.
Older Americans may be wondering if high inflation and a volatile market have added unwanted years to their working lives as the dollar figure for retirement readiness continues to mount.
A new study from Northwestern Mutual found that among its survey respondents, adults 18 and older expect they need $1.27 million in savings to retire comfortably, an increase from $1.25 million last year.
With high inflation affecting the price of just about everything, it’s natural to wonder how much it would take to enjoy one’s golden years.
A Moneywise analysis finds that the answer, of course, depends on everything from your personal savings situation and how much you can afford to invest going forward to your risk tolerance and expectations of your retirement life.
But even though Northwestern Mutual’s survey respondents reported that their nest eggs rose 3% to $89,300 on average from $86,869 in 2022 — and the anticipated retirement age has climbed to 65 years from 62.6 in 2021 — there are still some ways you may be able to shave off some of those unexpected extra years before you call it quits.
Americans aren’t saving enough
First, a hard truth: regardless of timelines, too many working adults in the U.S. aren’t saving enough for retirement. A survey from Prudential Financial revealed that 35% of respondents that identified as Gen X — those born between 1965 and 1980 — have less than $10,000 saved and 18% have nothing saved at all. That’s far below what many financial advisers recommend given how close this generation is to retirement.
Nearly half (47%) of the group polled expect to retire later than they anticipated — with 40% planning on working part-time even after retirement.
But with some planning and persistence — and perhaps some savings catch-up — you can retire comfortably. People who identified as disciplined financial planners knocked two years off their retirement age, down to 63, according to the Northwestern Mutual study.
Gather your information
Take a little time to do a quick estimate of how much you may need in retirement. It’s good to begin with the commonly advised 80% of your current annual income, but the real number will depend on your answers to questions about your anticipated post-work life. Do you expect to travel frequently? Will you work part-time to stay busy? Do you want to leave money to relatives?
Then it’s time to review your current assets: savings accounts, 401(k) balances, Roth individual retirement account (IRA) contributions, etc. Have some debt? That will factor in, too.
Make a plan
While it helps to understand general market dynamics, there’s no need to be a financial expert to gain control over your retirement plans. That’s where a certified financial adviser comes in.
An adviser might say that it pays to pay yourself first, and the easiest way to do that is through automated, tax-friendly investment vehicles like a 401(k) account that’s supercharged by employer matches. No access to a 401(k) plan? Consider automated bank transfers into a Roth IRA, which will put your money to work before you can fritter it away on lower priorities.
Be your own best advocate. Start with asking questions of your employer’s 401(k) plan administrator to see what options exist that can accommodate your retirement horizon and/or your investment risk tolerance.
That tolerance is critical. If you have 10 or more years left in your career, you might be more willing to invest in your plan’s more aggressive funds — reaping the long-term rewards of recovering markets — versus someone who’s closer to retirement and may want to consider more conservative holdings.
You may also want to consider taking advantage of online banks, where you might find savings accounts returning 2.5% or more, which is a huge advantage over brick-and-mortar banks.
Max out your savings
If you can satisfy your monthly bills, pay down your debts and still have money left over, consider maxing out your savings plans.
This year, individuals can contribute up to $22,500 to their 401(k) accounts, and contribution caps for IRAs are rising to $6,500. Investors 50 and over can make “catch-up” contributions to 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan up to $7,500.
While you may not be able to save that much, coming as close as you can to maxing out your plan will put you in the best position to be retirement-ready when the time comes.