It’s easy to panic if life got in the way of saving for retirement. But even if you’re age 50, with little saved for retirement, it’s not too late to adjust your money and investing habits and save for retirement.
With abundant resources, calculators and online tools at your disposal, you can assess where you are financially and what you need to do to build up a retirement stash for later. Take a deep breath, sit down, and map out your retirement plan, today.
1. Understand Your Current Financial Situation
If you don’t know where you are financially right now, it’s difficult to plan for your retirement.
Maybe you have some debt, and your income isn’t great. There are ways to proceed which will help shore up a retirement plan.
Use a tool like Mint.com, an Excel sheet, a Google doc, or even a pencil and paper to assess your current financial situation.
Tally up your net worth first. This includes what you own and encompasses all of your financial assets like equity in a home, savings accounts, investment accounts (including a 401k) or any other financial account.
Next, list your debts and liabilities. Include your credit card balances, mortgage balance and any other financial obligations.
Subtract liabilities from assets, and that is your net worth. that gives us our starting point. The goal in retirement planning is to then growth your net worth.
2. Estimate Current Retirement Income and Expenses
List your expected income from Social Security. You can create an account at SSA.gov and use the My Social Security Tool to estimate your Social Security benefit. Then add to that any other expected income sources, such as a pension and annuity payments.
Here’s the tricky part. Figure out how much you expect to spend in retirement. A good rule of thumb is that retirees can expect to spend 80% of their pre-retirement expenses in retirement.
Compare expected income and expenses, and if there’s a gap, that’s the amount of money you’ll need to come up with in retirement. There are many retirement calculators online, to help with this process.
Now you have an idea of how much money you’ll need annually in retirement.
3. Eliminate All Debt But Mortgage Payments
If you’re paying 15% interest on credit card payments and earning 7% on an investment account you have a net loss on your money of 8%.
If you have a lot of debt, you’ll need to make lifestyle changes — drive a more affordable car, or cut down your housing and living expenses. Focus on the largest expenses and figure out how to reduce them.
If you’re helping to support adult children, now is the time to cut the cord. It’s important to prioritize your own retirement and allow your children to make their own way in the world.
4. Increase Your Income
It’s a reality that today, that it’s tough to live on one income. Many successful people work more than one job and create multiple streams of income. Consider getting a side job, working online or checking out the gig economy for extra income ideas.
After understanding your financial situation, eliminating debt and boosting income, it’s time to focus on investing to build wealth.
5. Maximize Retirement Account Investing
If you have a 401k, 403b or other retirement account, you’re eligible to contribute $19,500 per year in 2020 with an additional $6,500 if you’re over age 50. This is an ideal account to use for retirement saving, as you won’t pay tax on the amount in the account and your employer may match your contribution.
If you’re already adding money to this account, increase your contribution. Contributing the maximum is ideal. If you can’t reach the max contribution amount, aim to transfer at least 15% of your income to the 401k or retirement account.
You can also open a Roth or Traditional IRA account for added savings. Check out the IRS income requirements. Contributing both to IRA and workplace retirement accounts will compound your investing and grow your savings faster.
At age 50, if you can contribute $15,000, per year to a retirement account for the next 20 years and earn a 6.5% average return, you’ll have $620,000 at age 70.
6. Add to Retirement Savings with a Health Savings Account (HSA)
If you have a high-deductible healthcare plan, you’re allowed to contribute $3,550 per year to a tax advantaged HSA. If you’re over age 55, you can contribute an additional $1,000 annually.
Like the 401k and IRA accounts, there are no taxes levied as the funds grow within this account. You can invest the money within the account for retirement and it will not be taxed upon withdrawal if the proceeds are used to pay for healthcare.
7. Delay Social Security Benefits Until age 70
If you are healthy and expect to live a long life, delaying Social Security benefits until age 70 can substantially increase your lifetime income. Once you reach your full retirement age, which is 67 if you were born in 1970, you’re eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. If you claim before age 67, your benefit payment will be reduced. But if you wait to claim your benefit until age 70, you can increase your payment by approximately 24%. Waiting until age 69 yields a 16% benefit increase over the amount you receive at full retirement age.
Consider working until age 70 if at all possible.
8. Buy an Annuity to Boost Retirement Income
Annuities come in a variety of flavors, with many types of fees. The benefit of a retirement annuity, especially if you are healthy, is that you can smooth out your retirement income.
Using the saving and investing example above, if you saved and invested $15,000 annually from age 50 to age 70, you would have a $620,000 retirement fund. You could buy a $250,000 annuity that would pay roughly $20,000 per year.
Add that to an approximate $30,000 Social Security annual benefit at age 70, and you’ll receive $50,000 annual income in retirement.
When buying an annuity, consider fees and benefits and choose carefully.
9. Get Low-Fee Investing Help from a Robo-Advisor
Robo-advisors are low-fee investment advisors that offer sound management for investors of all types. The benefit of opening a retirement or taxable brokerage account with a robo-advisor is that you can leave emotion out of the investment decision. You won’t be tempted to buy and sell at inopportune moments and ultimately hurt your returns.
You’ll also receive professionally crafted investment portfolios in line with your risk level.
There are many robo-advisors, some with low fees and low investment minimums as well as many other features. There are even fee-free robo-advisors with access to live financial planners like SoFi Invest.
Building a retirement stash starting at age 50 is possible with a plan. Assess if the behavioral changes required to grow your future wealth are worth making habit changes today.
Barbara A. Friedberg, MBA, MS is a veteran portfolio manager, expert investor, and former university finance instructor. She is editor/author of Personal Finance; An Encyclopedia of Modern Money Management and two additional money books. She is CEO of Robo-Advisor Pros.com, a robo-advisor review and information website. Additionally, Friedberg is publisher of the well-regarded investment website Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance.com. Follow her on twitter @barbfriedberg and @roboadvisorpros. As of this writing, she did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.