As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.” But it’s not too late for baby boomers who put off retirement planning and haven’t saved enough. Here are five key steps:
• HAVE A PLAN: Educate yourself about your complete financial picture and your options. You don’t have to obsess about reaching The Number – the amount a financial adviser or retirement calculator says you’ll need to retire comfortably. But having an idea of your expected monthly income and expenses in retirement is essential. Many financial sites offer retirement calculators; AARP has a newly revamped one at www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/retirement_calculator.
• SAVE MORE: Set savings goals you can reach, step by step. If you’re still working, allocate any money from raises to retirement savings. Increase your 401(k) contribution by 1 percent increments every few months so you adjust better to having less to spend.
• RETIRE LATER: Working longer doesn’t mean you have to save every extra penny. A key benefit of this approach is that it allows your existing savings additional time to grow, so you may be able to spend more on leisure during those years while you’re still healthy and active.
• SCALE BACK YOUR LIFESTYLE: Recognize that you’ll need to make compromises to reach your goals. That could mean having one less car, eating out less often or any number of other cutbacks. Consuming less will take an adjustment but doesn’t have to make you miserable. Staycations can be fun, and you can stay engaged and active through social relationships or volunteering. Just be sure you don’t cut back so drastically that you fail to stick with it.
• DELAY TAKING SOCIAL SECURITY: If you file for Social Security benefits as soon as you’re eligible at age 62, your payments are reduced by about 30 percent from what they would be at full retirement age. (See www.ssa.gov/retire2/retirechart.htm to find out your full retirement age, which is 66 to 67 depending on birth year.) After full retirement age, the monthly check increases by 8 percent for each additional year you delay up to age 70.
“If you start collecting sooner and live longer than your life expectancy, you’re in greater danger of running out of money,” says David Mendels, a certified financial planner with Creative Financial Concepts in New York City.