If you’re thinking about (or staying up at night worrying about) your retirement savings, you’re not the only one. Baby boomer savings are in trouble. Many baby boomers, especially those in their late 50’s, are faced with hard questions about how to live comfortably through their retirement years. The good news? It’s not too late. Let’s explore strategies to help kick start your retirement savings into high gear.

How Long Can You Expect To Live On Your Retirement Savings?

The answer depends on a variety of factors – your age at retirement, when you file for Social Security, how much you’ve already saved or have to work with, what your lifestyle is now and what you want it to be during retirement, and, last but not least important, what you are prepared to do about the situation.

The good news is that boomers today can expect to live longer than previous generations. There’s a high likelihood of 1 partner in a relationship living into their nineties. The bad news is that many boomers do not have enough money saved to last that many years.

The first thing to do for retirement is to plan on funding at least 20 years of retirement, on average, at your full retirement age. If you want to retire earlier, add another 10 years. And if you’re in good health and plan on working to keep it that way, add another 10 years. There are many calculators and a lot of great advice on sites that specialize in retirement and you’re well-advised to read them. However, because they are generic by nature, they are only guidelines. You’ll have to adapt and adjust the recommendations based on your circumstances.

A word of caution – if you’re reading this article, you’re either in at least decent shape for retirement and just checking for additional tips or you’ve visited those sites and you’re scared out of your mind!

But no worries – the main thing to focus on is that it’s never too late.

Realistic Strategies That Anyone Can Implement

If you’re still employed (or your partner is):

  • Take advantage of employer-based programs. Many employers nowadays have automatic enrollment in a retirement plan and, if you’re lucky, make matching contributions.
    • If you haven’t enrolled in the company plan yet, do this right away. Even small amounts in a retirement account will earn something that you wouldn’t have earned otherwise. Compound interest is your friend!
  • Some employers also make automatic increases in your contribution each year. Just like a lot of deductions, you probably won’t miss the extra amount. Start small if you have to but take advantage of this program. 
    • Contributions are withdrawn pre-tax, so you’ll save money for retirement and pay less in taxes on your take-home pay. It’s a win-win!
  • Employers frequently work with specialist advisors who assist employers in managing portfolios. And, they frequently provide free or low-cost information and advice to participants on investments and retirement planning. Take a deep breath and meet with someone who can help you.
    • While you can generally save as much as you want in a savings account, there are limits on the amount that you can contribute to a 401k or similar retirement plan. The good news is that the IRS has increased the limit of contributions to $19,000; $500 more than last year.

If you don’t have access to employer programs:

  • The most common thread mentioned by experts is to save, save, save – whatever you can.
  • Pay down debt. Some baby boomers focus on paying down mortgages, loans, credit card or other debts as a way to reduce living expenses while maximizing savings over a longer period of time. Talk with your lending institution to see if it makes sense to refinance for a lower monthly payment. If your house or car is paid for and you plan on keeping it, that’s 1 less monthly payment.
    • One caveat – some debt (especially your mortgage payment) may offer some tax benefit so discuss this with your tax advisor
  • Consider if you should delay filing for Social Security. You’ll want to talk to an expert to determine the pros and cons – losing earnings until a future filing date vs. a potentially higher monthly pay-out if you delay filing.

Think Outside The Box – Create Additional Income Opportunities

retirement savings
Part of your plan to stay alert and healthy can easily be to earn additional money to supplement your retirement savings. Today’s retirees actually plan to not only live longer but to live active fulfilling lives as long as they can. Unlike previous generations, we’re staying healthier longer. And we live in a time when “retirement” is a bit of a misnomer. Many of us retire from the corporate grind to do things we’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because we were constrained by children, finances and other responsibilities. Whether we want to continue earning money or you have to, consider side work.

If you’re already collecting Social Security or plan to file soon, there are limits on how much you can earn in income per year. But a side business can still make a nice supplement. Oh, and there are usually some tax benefits that you can take advantage of as well for the annual April 15 tax dance!

So, who says you can’t earn a few dollars repairing things or teaching people how to play the drums, garden, speak a foreign language or to write about almost anything? The point is that this is a time of entrepreneurship. There are more ways for the average person to earn money these days than ever before.

Boost Your Retirement Savings with These Money-Making Ideas

  • Check out the library or book store’s collections of money-making ideas specifically designed for people over 50. They’re bursting with ideas and resources.
  • If you’re concerned about the stock market or not happy with the results in your retirement plan, consider additional investing opportunities. Generally speaking, real estate is a good investment. Rental income can provide additional monthly income with some tax benefits for running the business.
    • Caution! – don’t believe the late-night commercials that promise untold riches. There are a number of things to consider before entering this arena. However, the average person can earn some extra money with the right resources and knowledge
      • Talk to someone who is a small investor to see how they do it and what you need to know and do your research.
    • There are some companies that do the real estate investing for you. Educate yourself about reputable options like this and eliminate the hassle of repairs and tenant issues.
  • Investigate other investing options that you can manage from your home office (possible tax benefits if you use it for a home business). The return may not be as high as the stock market but it’s a good and safer place to start with limited funds.
  • Consider “gig” jobs that come in so many different flavors. Like kids or seniors who need some help? Try one of the online companies like Care.com  that cater to everything from childcare to tutoring to companion help.
  • A recent trend is being a “granny nanny” – not like the Beverly Hillbillies granny. It’s a combination of grandparent and nanny. What greater job is there than being a nanny for your own grandchildren? Everybody wins – the parents get a family member to help raise their kids and potentially enjoy reduced childcare costs and the grandkids get to have their grandparent going to the park or museum with them whenever they want. It’s the 2 X words – exhilarating and exhausting. You can bet you’ll be too tired to worry about going to the gym!
  • Some sites specialize in freelance work – Upwork or a host of others offer everything from writing to graphic design gigs

Consider Your Risk Tolerance

Whether investing in the stock market or any other avenue, consider your ability to tolerate risk (financially as well as mentally). The standard formula for balancing your investment portfolio (even if it’s only a little notebook!) is that the older you are/closer to retirement, the more stable your investment needs to be. Why? Boomers don’t have as long to recoup losses in their investments, so they’re advised to invest in stable, moderate-to-low risk opportunities.

Should You Pay For Your Children’s Education, Wedding, Etc.?

retirement savings
For boomers raised on the premise of paying for their children’s weddings or college tuition, it may seem counterintuitive or even selfish not to help pay for their adult children’s wedding or college tuition.

However, the scarcity of traditional pensions to rely on and the economic downturns of recent memory makes this a resounding NO! Experts have been preaching against this practice for some time now, but many people find themselves in this position.

If you don’t have a vault full of cash in your closet or thousands of dollars’ worth of collectibles that you can cash in to pay for your children’s wedding, you’re probably not in a position to do so. Yes, it’s a debt that your kids may have to carry around for a while, but they have the benefit of time and future earnings. As a baby boomer/pre-retiree, you don’t.

Have those conversations with your kids as soon as possible. Think of it this way, they want the best for you as much as you want it for them. If you don’t stay financially secure, will they have to assume the burden of helping you!

Are Reverse Mortgages A Viable Option?

retirement savings
In certain circumstances, they could be a good choice. But there are many factors to take into consideration before making that choice. There are a lot of downsides – upfront fees, stipulations that impact your spouse, children or heirs and potential financial drawbacks for you if circumstances change.

Before you speak to the financing institution, seek advice from an unbiased professional who can help you determine the pros and cons. In many circumstances, you may be better off either remaining in the home or downsizing and selling or renting it for additional income. Use caution with this option.

Remember where we started this journey – it’s not too late to start planning or saving for your retirement. Check out these resources to get started. And?

Happy rest of your fabulous life!


The Motley Fool – Here’s how much you should have saved for retirement


SSA retirement calculator

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