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Help for 50-Somethings Short on Retirement Funds

The following is a guest post from Barbara Friedberg.

Nest Egg photo via Michael Cobb Allen

There is no shortage of people in their 50s with little retirement savings. Pension plans like the ones our parents' generation relied on are few and far between. Those 401(k) balances aren't as high as we hoped. Social Security still faces the possibility of the " chained CPI" COLA proposal.

Most of us, like my friend Seth, haven't saved enough. Seth lives in New York City and earned a mid six-figure salary for decades - until he was laid off. He's currently looking for work and panicked about the future. His coping strategy: ignore his finances. Like many other 50-somethings facing retirement fears, Seth is paralyzed.

Here are some strategies to deal with your retirement reality so you can take steps to make it better.

  • Crunch the numbers. Decide today that putting this task off and staying in the dark is no longer an option. Go through all of your accounts: savings/money market, workplace retirement account, IRAs, and other investments. Tally up the total value today. Next, visit Social and view your Social Security statement. See the difference delaying retirement could make, and examine your monthly benefit projections at various retirement ages with this online tool.
  • Face the future. How much income will you need in retirement? Be honest with yourself about wants versus needs. You might even create two scenarios: one on the more optimistic side, and the other cutting down to bare necessities. Use AARP's retirement calculator to help.
  • Analyze your retirement picture. Divide your projected financial worth at retirement by the number of years you expect to live. That's your future annual available income. Add that to your annual retirement benefits from Social Security or pensions (take the monthly amount and multiply it by 12). That's your total annual income projection.


"Help... I Won't have Enough!"

You can make choices to cut costs and/or increase income. Here are several achievable strategies.

  1. Save more by cutting back on expenses now. Face the difficult reality that it's better to deal with your current money situation while you're still working instead of putting it off.
  2. Consider moving to a low cost of living environment upon retirement.
  3. Work part-time in retirement - preferably doing work you enjoy.
  4. Consider renting a room in your home or selling some of your things on Craigslist or Ebay.
  5. Make a decision to consciously assess your lifestyle and spending habits, and then re-assess periodically. Think of this as an investment in your future contentment.


Also consider Jane Bryant Quinn's advice on " power saving" during your remaining working years. Make each year count. In spite of great intentions to work until we're older, layoffs or health problems may thwart our best efforts.

It's never too late to create the present and future you want. Take the first step today.

Are you facing a shortfall? Share your thoughts on retirement challenges in the comments.

Photo credit: Michael Cobb Allen via Flickr Creative Commons

Barbara Friedberg

Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS is editor-in-chief of Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance, a portfolio manager and a university lecturer to MBA students. She is the author of How to Get Rich: Wealth Building Guide for the Financially Illiterate.



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