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It’s Never Too Late to Save for Retirement

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Updated November 3, 2022

Allyson Krause CRPP™, Managing Director Retirement Plan Services

Ways to save for retirement at any age

Most Americans are not saving enough for retirement. In fact, a 2019 Federal Reserve study found that 17 percent of people age 45 through 59 do not have any retirement savings.

Saving for retirement feels challenging — especially if you haven’t started yet. It’s certainly ideal to start saving as early as you can. However, it is never too late to start. Your retirement savings plan can be adjusted to fit your age and your financial situation. Here are some tips to get started.

First, the basics

Before you jump into learning about how to save for retirement, you should be aware of two main retirement savings options available to you: employer-sponsored retirement savings accounts and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Having basic knowledge of these tools will help you build a retirement savings plan.

Employer-sponsored retirement accounts

Retirement savings plans are frequently offered through employers as part of the employee benefits package. Depending on your employer, they may offer a 401(k) or 403(b) plan.

There are two things to understand about these plans. First, these are tax-deferred plans, meaning that the money contributed to these savings accounts are from your pre-tax dollars. When you begin to withdraw money at retirement age, you will pay income tax on those funds. Secondly, there is often an employer match, which means that your employer will match a certain amount of your contributions. Take advantage of this benefit — it’s free money.

IRAs

Some employers do not offer a retirement plan. Instead of a 401(k) or a 403(b), anyone who is earning income can open up an IRA and set aside savings on their own. There are two types of IRAs: traditional and Roth.

A traditional IRA is similar to a 401(k) or a 403(b) in that it is pre-tax dollars. You will not pay tax up front on your contributions, but you will pay when you take it out. Conversely, a Roth IRA is after-tax dollars, which actually allows your money to grow tax free. When you withdraw it at a later date, you will not pay tax on it. These are extremely good investment options for anyone, but are especially good for those just starting out in the workforce. This is because, generally speaking, you start out at a lower tax bracket and retire in a higher one. Saving with a Roth IRA means you will pay less tax on your savings.

Getting Started

Whether you’re in your 30s or your 60s, there are strategies you can use to save. Here’s a rundown of tips for each age group.

Thirties

Your thirties are an excellent time to start saving for retirement.

In your thirties, you might have a job with an employer who offers a retirement plan as part of their benefits. If that is true for you, learn about if your company offers a match and what their vesting schedule is. If your company doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan as part of their company benefits, open an IRA. At this stage, it is likely more beneficial to open a Roth and enjoy your money growing tax free.

Forties

Your forties are typically the beginning of your peak income-earning years. By now, you likely have an employer-sponsored retirement plan and should be maxing out the match if you can.

Open an IRA and start saving today if you do not have an employer-sponsored retirement plan. You still have several working years ahead of you to contribute savings and to let your money grow.

No matter how long you have been saving, look at your take-home pay and make a monthly retirement savings goal. There may be areas in your budget that you can tighten up that will allow you to divert extra funds to retirement. Personal finance is all connected — what you choose to save in one area of your budget means more flexibility somewhere else.

Fifties

Fifty is a good age to build a savings plan that will provide you comfort in your retirement years. No matter what job you have, you are in your prime income earning years and still have a decently long retirement horizon. Many people are stretching their retirement age to 70. If you can manage that, you have 20 years to save for retirement.

The great thing about saving in your fifties is that you qualify for catch-up contributions. These are additional funds that you are allowed to contribute to your retirement accounts, which means you can invest more than your previous contribution limit. If you got a late start, take advantage of catch-up contributions.

Sixties

The finish line is getting close! Retirement age is around the corner and now is the time to think about how your retirement savings will turn into your retirement income.

At this age, it is important to sit down with a financial planner and look at your budget, what income streams you will have coming to you from your various retirement accounts, pensions and Social Security. This is a time to look at what your cost of living will be and how well your income will cover those costs.

A financial planner will help you determine how many years your savings can support. This means that you can lock in a realistic retirement age. You can look into working part time if you determine that you will need supplemental income.

This is also a time to look at when you can realistically retire. Can you retire at 65? Do you need to push it to 70 in order to let your money earn a bit more?

Other Considerations:

Debt and Mortgages

Debt is the main obstacle to building wealth. Paying off debt, if you have it, should be a priority at any age. If you are younger — thirties or forties — contributing smaller amounts to your retirement is okay if you are making larger payments toward your debt. Once you are debt-free, you will be able to save more.

Using a budget helps you to identify and reduce discretionary spending. Short-term sacrifices like cutting out fancy restaurants, expensive coffees or vacations have long-term benefits.

When you reach your fifties and sixties, reducing your debt becomes even more important — specifically, your mortgage. This is the time to consider paying off a mortgage if you haven’t, or consider downsizing. Owning a home means you have far greater financial flexibility, and you have an asset that is separate from your retirement accounts. Additionally, if you do not have a mortgage, you can divert more money into your retirement accounts.

Increase your Income

A side job is an option for anyone at any age. You can use your earnings from a part-time job to build your savings or pay off your debt. There are several different types of side jobs out there, so get creative! If you are older and have children who have moved out of your house, consider renting out a room for additional income without leaving your home. Many people enjoy taking advantage of their free time to make their financial situation more stable.

College Savings

If you have children or plan to have children, you need to consider college expenses, and the earlier the better. While saving for college may not seem like a retirement issue, if you consistently set aside money in a college savings account like a 529 plan you, or your child, will pay less out-of-pocket expenses —  this means that you’ll have more money to either put towards your retirement savings, debt or a mortgage. If you ever need to choose between saving for your child’s college expenses or retirement, choose to pay yourself first. You will need that money before your child does.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Consider long-term care insurance once you reach your sixties. If you are ever in an assisted living or nursing home, knowing you have an insurance policy to cover the bulk of expenses means that your retirement savings will stretch farther.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

Health expenses are always important to consider, but even more important as you age.

Opening an HSA can help you cover the cost of copays, prescription medications and other qualifying medical expenses. HSAs can help plan for the unexpected and keep you on track saving for retirement.

Your Trusted Partner

It’s never too late to start saving for retirement, and working with a trusted partner can help you develop and execute your retirement plan. At Trust Point, we have been helping our clients with their financial needs for over a century. Our experts are held to the highest fiduciary standards, and will always give you impartial financial advice and work in your best interest. Click here to get started today.

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Allyson Krause CRPP™, Managing Director Retirement Plan Services