Most Americans know they need to save more for retirement.
But most Americans aren’t doing it.
Just how bad off are some of them? A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that about half of households 55 and older had no retirement savings at all.
Clearly, many Americans could be headed for retirement disaster. Fortunately, though, there are steps they can still take to improve their situation.
“While it’s never too early to start saving for retirement, it’s also never too late,” says Chuck Price, president of Price Financial Group Wealth Management Inc. (www.pfgwm.com) and author of “Investing Simplified: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.”
“Even if you’re in your 40s or 50s and you have no money saved at all, you shouldn’t just throw up your hands and give up. You can still begin building a portfolio that can put you in a better position for when you retire, even if it’s not as good as it would have been if you had started at 25.”
The first step, Price says, is to calculate how much money you’ll need to live on. A ballpark figure should suffice. If you’re not sure how to even begin, there are online retirement calculators that can help.
Once you’ve done that, Price says you should:
• Pool your resources. Figure out how much money you have for investing and saving, and also how much you’ll receive in Social Security. If you have a pension, include that, too. The goal is to get an idea of where you are financially in relation to how much money you’ll need.
• Set goals. After you have good grasp of your money situation, set savings goals for yourself. You’ll want to make regular contributions to savings.
• Set up a 401(k) and/or a Roth IRA. If your company offers a 401(k) and you haven’t taken advantage of it, now is the time, Price says. Many companies match your contributions up to 50 percent. If you make below certain income thresholds, you may also be able to contribute to a Roth IRA. Roth IRA contributions aren’t tax deductible, but you can withdraw the money tax free when you retire.
• Avoid being too conservative. If you’ve waited this long to begin saving, then you can’t afford to be conservative. You have a lot of years to make up. “Don’t be reckless,” Price says, “but a little aggressiveness could do you a lot of good if you only have a decade or two left to build a sizeable retirement account.” Investing in stock and mutual funds, after some extensive research, could make a difference.
• Eliminate debt. Granted, this is easier said than done, Price says. Getting out of debt, especially heavy debt, can take years and can severely impact your ability to save. The sooner you’re out of debt, the better.
“If saving is still a struggle, you might want to consider downsizing your home or taking a second job,” Price says. “But the most important thing with saving for retirement is just to get started.”