Americans haven’t saved enough for retirement and the bill is about to come due. Follow these steps to make retirement work.
Nearly seven years from the bottom of the financial crisis and the S&P 500 has surged 210% over the period. Net private savings reached almost $700 billion in 2015, so why are you so worried about your retirement?
If you haven’t saved enough for retirement and are feeling a little uneasy heading into what should be some well-deserved R&R, you’re not alone. More than 38 million households have no money saved away for retirement and the median savings for Americans with 10 years from retirement is just $12,000 in assets.
Most Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement. Even including the average social security benefit of just over $1,100 you would still need a portfolio of about $570,000 to provide a $36,000 annual income at a 4% withdrawal rate.
If you’re hoping that the stock market will continue to rocket higher, providing just enough return to cover your living expenses, you might end up worse than you are now. I’m not going to try predicting the next market crash but one legendary investor sees returns of just 4.5% annually over the next decade on a portfolio of stocks and bonds.
So what do you do when you haven’t saved enough for retirement and you’re running out of options? If you’re approaching your 60s, you might not have the luxury of just saving more. You’ll need to be proactive to make sure you’re not living on the dollar menu at the Golden Arches for the rest of your golden years.
Four Steps for When You Haven’t Saved Enough for Retirement
The absolute first thing you should do when you realize you don’t have enough saved for retirement is to change the way you invest. Your retirement investments may not provide for much but imagine getting caught in a market crash and losing what little you’ve saved.
The best way to protect your retirement investments is to follow the Bucket Approach to Retirement Planning, outlined in a previous article. This involves separating your retirement investments into three distinct categories, each providing different levels of cash and return. The safest bucket will help you meet any near-term expenses without having to withdraw too much from your account. The second bucket generates reliable cash to refill the first bucket and the final bucket gives you the max return possible with what you’ve been able to save.
You’ll also want to do a 401k rollover for all your old employer retirement plans. The 401k rollover process is simple and will help you better see all your retirement assets in one place. Rolling those orphaned 401k plans into an individual retirement account (IRA) puts you in control of the money and reduces the risk that a bankrupt former employer will put your retirement dreams in jeopardy.
While many people say they will continue to work later in life, 45% of men and 51% of women retire as soon as their allowed to start collecting social security benefits. It’s a mistake that costs people thousands a year. Retiring at 62 will cost you big time with a $1,000 benefit payment reduced to just $750 per month. You’ll get the full amount at age 66 and will collect $1,160 a month if you can hold out to age 68 to retire.
Unfortunately, age discrimination in the workplace may keep you from working as long as you need to delay social security. Covering the income gap may mean starting a second career as a work from home freelancer or contract worker. If it’s not enough to cover all your expenses, you might consider digging into your savings just a little to delay social security a few more years.
Finally, challenge yourself and your perception of what retirement looks like. This starts with how much you’re spending now and how much you plan on spending in retirement. It may seem impossible to cut further into your budget but put yourself on a no-spending challenge for a month and you’ll be surprised how easily you can live on less. You might also consider retiring somewhere with a lower cost of living and an easier tax burden. We highlighted the top five retirement destinations on any budget recently but lower cost options exist right here in the Red, White and Blue as well.
There’s really no quick fixes if you’re within a few years of retirement and haven’t started saving. It mostly comes down to saving a little more, spending less and earning as much as you can for as long as you can. Besides adopting the bucket approach, holding the right mix of assets like stocks, bonds, real estate and precious metals can help lower your risk and provide a little higher return compared to a simple stock-bond portfolio.