It’s starting to get real for soon-to-be retirees — and their adult kids, who may very well find themselves telling mom and dad, “If you’re going to live in my basement, you need to act like adults and pick up your own dirty laundry.”
The median retirement savings balance for Americans age 55 to 64 is an underwhelming $104,000, according to a 2015 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. These are folks who are technically just two to 12 years away from “full retirement age,” as defined by the Social Security Administration. That’s a “moving in with your kids” amount of money for retirees who need their investments to support them for another 20 or 30 years.
Even if you’re decades away from the prospect of showing up on your youngest child’s doorstep with your luggage and laundry, you may want to act now to save more for your future. Here are five ways to play retirement savings catch-up.
1. Fire your overpriced money people
Good for you if you know how much you pay annually in investment fees (on the mutual funds you own, the 401(k) plan you contribute to and any pros you pay for advice). Many people don’t. Even fewer realize how much investment fees really cost them.
Although paying 2% in annual fees may sound reasonable, sacrificing $127,000 in potential returns over three decades should not. Yet that’s how much an investor who saves $500 a month for 30 years — socking away a total of $180,000 in cash savings and earning a 7% average annual return — will give up in investment returns to pay a broker a “reasonable” 2% to manage that money.
The investor may even be pleased with the $409,000 that piles up in that retirement account. Not as pleased as the saver who’s sitting on more than $536,000, of course. The only difference between the two scenarios is that one investor paid close attention to investment fees and kept annual expenses to 0.5% — not difficult to do given the widespread availability of low-cost index mutual funds and affordable financial planning.
2. Sequester and invest ‘other money’ right away
Tax refunds, raises, work bonuses, $20 bills that show up in the dryer lint filter … even small windfalls can add up to significant financial padding for your future (as in tens of thousands of dollars just by saving and investing even a portion of raises and bonuses). Just pretend the money was never yours to spend in the first place.
The best way to make that happen is to prevent this “other money” from commingling with your “regular money” (the cash in your checking account). It doesn’t take long for your brain to grow weary of doing the math (e.g., “My real account balance is this money minus that other money”) and “forget” to move it out of spending reach and into long-term savings.
3. Start acting like a millennial
They might be underemployed and over-connected, but kids these days show a lot more enthusiasm than the rest of us when it comes to bettering their financial futures.
Boomers and Gen Xers still out-save the younger generation in terms of the percentage of income/salary they sock away (9.7% and 8.2%, respectively, which includes any employer match), according to Fidelity Investments’ biennial Retirement Savings Assessment study. But since 2013 millennials have increased their savings rate more than any other generation, upping the percentage of income they devote to retirement savings to 7.5% from 5.8%. Gauntlet thrown.
In terms of IRA and 401(k) contribution limits, age is a plus for those who are 50 or older. Take advantage of higher IRS retirement plan catch-up limits — up to $6,500 a year for IRAs and $24,000 for 401(k)s for 2016. Gauntlet deflected. And if Fidelity’s minimum recommended savings rate of 15% seems out of reach right now, try to get there gradually by increasing your rate of contribution by 1% every year.
4. Change your ‘due date’
If you can be flexible with your plans, postponing your retirement party for a year or so will leave you better off in the long term. Every extra year you rake in a salary means more paychecks to save and invest and more years for your portfolio to grow. (Remember, it’s time and compound interest that builds fortunes.) Added bonus: Delaying taking Social Security will likely result in a bigger paycheck from Uncle Sam.
If postponing full retirement is an unbearable thought, consider other plan adjustments, such as going part time and/or scaling back your retirement savings withdrawals in leaner years.
5. Be selfish about what you’re saving for
It’s generous to offer financial support to your loved ones (whether it’s help with a down payment for a first home or college savings for the grandkids). Maybe you consider it your duty as a loving parent or provider. But at some point your largesse may put your future financial footing in jeopardy.
Cutting back on the financial support you provide your loved ones is a difficult choice, not to mention a hard conversation to have. But the reality is that your kids have options, such as education loans and career flexibility, that you don’t.
Be candid with your adult children about your financial situation and explain that you’re concerned that you aren’t saving enough to cover your living expenses in the future. And then wander around their house describing aloud how you’d arrange your furniture in their spare bedroom or basement. You know, just in case it comes to that.
Dayana Yochim is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DayanaYochim.
This was written by NerdWallet and originally published by USA Today.