If you look at the average retirement savings by age, you might find them alarming. You may even come to the conclusion that Americans are facing a pretty dire situation. Just take a look at the median retirement savings of families by age, reported by CNBC:
- 44 to 49: $6,200
- 50 to 55: $8,000
- 56 to 61: $17,000
That makes more sense when you consider 41% of Gen X, who range from their late 30s to mid 50s, and 42% of Baby Boomers, roughly late 50s to mid 70s, haven’t saved anything for their financial futures.
Even if these numbers are low and the reality isn’t this dramatic, it’s not a good sign. If you’re approaching the time when you may want to retire, you shouldn’t have less than six figures saved – and definitely not less than five!
These account balances are far too low to enjoy retirement or reach financial freedom. Assuming you don’t want to work the rest of your days, we need to do something to change statistics like these.
At the very least, you can take control and do something in your own life to make sure you don’t become part of the statistic.
Start Saving Now
The best thing you can do for yourself is to look at your own financial situation and evaluate what’s going on. Are you saving or investing at all?
If the answer is “no,” start. Start now. Don’t waste time or energy beating yourself up about where you stand from a financial perspective today. Just get in action:
- Contribute to a retirement plan if you have one through work. Put in at least enough money to get the employer match for plans like 401(k)s or SIMPLE IRAs.
- Use a Roth IRA and max that out each year if you’re eligible.
- Build up a cash cushion or emergency reserve.
- See what expenses you don’t need that you could cut to free up more money for savings.
These are good starting points, but it’s just the beginning. If your balances look like the average retirement savings by age, then you have some catching up to do – and saving cash alone won’t get you there.
Consider looking at how you can invest aggressively but strategically to get to where you need to be.
Investing in a Strategic Way Can Help Your Retirement Savings Catch Up
Saving is good, but it’s not enough because you won’t earn a significant return on your money this way. At best, you can earn about 1 percent through a bank savings account, or maybe up to 3 or 4 percent if you stick cash in something like a CD.
Even that, though, won’t be much help because the rate of inflation is about 3 percent. That means your cash will likely lose purchasing power over the years, leaving it worth less than when you saved it.
Considering this, stockpiling cash likely won’t be enough to get you ahead of the average retirement savings by age. To do that, you need to get serious with your investments and look at how you can maximize your money.
There are countless options available to you, and the best approach will depend on a few key factors:
- Where you are today versus where you want to be in the future, and how big the gap actually is between those two places.
- How much risk you can handle (and remember, there’s a correlation between risk and reward: if you need to catch up on building your nest egg you might want to take bigger risks to enjoy higher returns).
- Whether or not you’re doing this all yourself or if you’re working with a professional to help guide you as you go.
Make Small Tweaks Now, Enjoy More in the Future
You don’t have to sacrifice everything you enjoy today. But it might be worthwhile to look at your current expenses, and ask yourself if there’s anything that you need to change.
This doesn’t mean stop spending. It means look for simple ways to reduce how much money goes out the door. Switching gym memberships, canceling subscriptions you don’t use, buying generic instead of brand name – these are all tiny things that, together, can make a significant and positive impact on your monthly budget.
Don’t forget that the fewer expenses you have now, the easier it will be to reach a point where you can quit working and do what you want. You won’t need to save as much if you’re not spending as much.
If saving more just isn’t going to work for you, working longer might be necessary – but “longer” could only mean a few months longer than you initially planned. Many people find this is a workable trade off if it means they get to maintain the lifestyle they want.
Assemble Your Team
That’s a lot of what financial planning is about: finding the best ways to maximize the resources you have, be they time or money, to live the way you want today, tomorrow, and decades from now.
It’s not necessarily about sacrifice. It’s about looking strategically at your finances, avoiding mistakes, and making the most of your opportunities. It may be tough to get the perspective you need. That’s why the most financially successful people don’t just try to do everything on their own. They work with a team of experts who provide guidance.
Get a second set of eyes on your financial situation and don’t let any opportunities pass you by. You don’t want to be the person who’s stuck working years longer than necessary. You can avoid this by having a plan and taking it seriously.