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Way Behind on Retirement Savings? It Won’t be Easy but You Can Still Recover – Here’s How

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We recently ran across this article published a few months back on the CNN Money website. Written by retirement expert and well-known money writer Walter Updegrave, the article tackles a question we hear often at our AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminars and on our radio program: What do I do if I’m in my 50s or 60s and haven’t saved much for retirement? Updegrave’s answer: you can still recover some lost ground, but it’s not going to be easy.

Skimpy Savings? You’re Not Alone

In the article, Updegrave is responding to a query from a couple in their 50s who have “next to nothing saved for retirement.” His reply puts the problem in stark context. “If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone,” he writes. “When the Employee Benefit Research Institute asked workers as part of its latest Retirement Confidence Survey how much they had set aside for retirement, more than a third of those between the ages of 45 and 54 who answered said they had less than $25,000 saved, while more than a quarter of those 55 and older said they had less than that 25 grand tucked away.” The gloomy statistics we hear more and more these days appear to be true: when it comes to saving for their retirement future, a large number of boomers have done a poor job, and their prospects for a secure retirement are bleak.

But Updegrave adds a reassuring if somewhat sobering note. “While your trepidation at nearing retirement age with very little saved is understandable, your situation isn’t hopeless,” he stated. “You still have enough time to significantly improve your retirement prospects, if you’re willing to start taking serious steps now.” He then lists what he calls the three most important things people need to do in order to overcome a serious savings deficit. None of these is new or original with him – we’ve heard this advice before – but the three steps are worth a look because they represent a common sense approach to a major problem. Nevertheless, here’s a word of warning: don’t expect any silver bullets. Unless someone sends you a winning lottery ticket in the mail, building up your financial health when you begin later in life is going to take hard work and a steely-eyed resolve.

Three Recovery Tips

Here are Walter Updegrave’s three ways to recover from a late start on retirement planning.

  • “Start Saving Your You-Know-What Off!” (Those are his words, not ours, but you get the picture.) Updegrave writes, “Let me be blunt about this. To go from saving virtually nothing to saving diligently is going to require real discipline and some major lifestyle adjustments. But unless you’re willing to make a concerted effort to spend less and save more, your chances of being able to live anything close to your current lifestyle after you retire are slim.” We think his point is well taken: saving something is far better than saving nothing. For example, he says, $500 saved monthly over 15 years, with an average 6 percent return, could yield a nest egg of about $145,000, with annual withdrawals in retirement of $5,000 or so. This is where the advice of a reputable financial planner can prove invaluable, so if you need a referral, please contact us.
  • Keep Working. One of the most effective ways to improve your retirement standard of living, say researchers, is to keep working longer. Not only can you delay Social Security, boosting your benefit by about 8 percent for each year you wait between ages 62 and 70, but you can also keep saving.  But Updegrave adds this warning: “Don’t count on staying on the job. The Employee Benefit Research Institute has consistently found that nearly half of workers retire sooner than they expected, often because of health issues, layoffs or because they have to care for a spouse or other family member.” In other words, if you’re still employed and approaching retirement age, don’t stop saving now. You may find your career plans cut short.
  • Be Flexible and Resourceful. Apart from saving more and working longer, this may be the most important advice of all. If your retirement savings are low or non-existent, some creative thinking is imperative. Can you work part-time? Can you downsize or move someplace with lower cost of living? Can you opt for shared housing with friends or family?  Is a reverse mortgage a viable option? Some unorthodox solutions might be called for as you plan ahead to enhance your retirement lifestyle.

More Than Money

“I’m not saying it will be easy,” Updegrave concludes. “But if you combine several of the steps I’ve outlined here — and keep an eye out for ways to generate more post-career income or lower your future expenses — you can still improve your chances of achieving a secure retirement.” We think he’s right, up to a point. What’s missing, though, is a broader, more comprehensive approach to the problem. Retirement planning is about far more than money, which is why it’s essential that you look at your financial picture as just one piece of a larger puzzle. A well-rounded retirement plan must deal with money issues but also the other critical facets of retirement living: your housing plans, your legal protection, your medical coverage (both short and long-term) and communication with your family. These elements of a healthy retirement plan should all work together, as part of an interconnected, interdependent whole.

Fortunately, there’s one retirement planning strategy that does exactly that: a LifePlan from AgingOptions. And there’s an easy and enjoyable way to find out about LifePlanning, without cost or obligation, and that’s to join Rajiv Nagaich at a LifePlanning Seminar. They’re free, fun, and information-packed, and there’s probably one coming up near you. Visit our Live Events page where you’ll find a complete calendar of upcoming seminars, along with a simple online registration form. Whether you’ve been preparing for retirement all your life or just started yesterday, you’ll find a trove of useful information at a LifePlanning Seminar, so we hope to see you at a live event soon. Age on!

(originally reported at

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