Saving a six- or even seven-figure sum for retirement isn't an easy feat, even if you have decades to accomplish it. In March 2020, approximately 26% of adults 60 and older had less than $100,000 saved for retirement, according to an American Advisors Group survey, but that masks the true scope of the problem. In April 2020, as the country began feeling the financial strain of the COVID-19 crisis, the percentage of adults 60 and older with less than $100,000 in retirement savings jumped to 43%.

This could be related to the market downturn that hurt the value of many people's retirement portfolios, or it could reflect some early withdrawals taken to help cover living expenses while some of these individuals could not work. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. These people will have a difficult time retiring comfortably on what they have, so they need to develop a new strategy.

Worried senior couple looking at financial documents

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Here's a closer look at how far $100,000 goes in retirement, along with what you can do to get more money in your retirement account and help what you have last longer.

Why $100,000 is nowhere near enough for retirement

The average household headed by an adult 65 or older spends a little over $50,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Based on these figures, a $100,000 nest egg would last less than two years in retirement if you relied upon that alone. You'll probably have Social Security benefits to help you out, and you might spend less than the average, so you could feasibly stretch your savings out a few more years than this. 

But unless you only expect your retirement to last a short time, you will likely outlive your $100,000 in savings. That could force you to rely upon family members for support or risk falling behind on your bills. If you're concerned about this, you should take steps immediately to reconsider your retirement plan.

How to design a more secure retirement

Delaying your retirement is one of the best ways to combat a small nest egg, because it gives you additional time to save while reducing the number of years of savings you need. It may also give your retirement portfolio more time to rebound from the losses it's suffered over the last few months.

You could also consider a side hustle to generate additional cash. There are many you can do from home if you're concerned about being exposed to others. Consider virtual assisting, online tutoring, or even creating your own course or blog. There are side hustles that don't require a lot of work on your part either, like renting out an extra property or a spare parking space. If you do start a side business, you must remember to set aside taxes on your own to pay the IRS. Have a designated savings account where you can keep these funds.

The major downside of planning to work longer is that you can't guarantee you'll be able to. An injury or illness could force you to retire sooner than you'd expected. Even if you remain healthy, a family member may not, and you could end up staying home to care for them. Have a backup plan for what you would do in one of these scenarios so you're not caught off guard if it does happen.

Cutting your expenses both now and in retirement can also help stretch your savings further. Eliminating unnecessary purchases today can enable you to put more cash toward retirement -- though, admittedly, in the present climate, saving for retirement might not be possible if you're still struggling to pay your bills. Removing unnecessary expenses, like travel, in your retirement budget can also reduce your costs.

You could also consider delaying Social Security if you believe you'll live a longer life. Every month you delay benefits increases your check until you reach your maximum benefit at 70. You may not be able to afford to delay benefits that long, but every little bit helps. Once you start claiming, your larger Social Security checks will go further, so you can rely less upon your personal savings.

There aren't any easy solutions for those who are dangerously far behind on retirement savings. But trying some of the tips above is better than allowing your money to run out after a few years. Do what you can and check in with yourself at least once per year to see if there are any additional changes you can make to reach your savings goals.