Retirement is on almost everyone's list of financial goals, but many are not taking the necessary steps to plan for it. People have a lot of excuses for why they haven't gotten around to creating a retirement plan yet, but the longer you wait, the more difficult the task becomes because you have less time to save before retirement is upon you. Here are three of the most common reasons people keep putting off retirement planning, according to a recent Alliance for Lifetime Income study, and how you can break out of that cycle.
1. You don't have enough money
This is a pretty significant barrier to retirement savings because if all your money is tied up paying your monthly bills, it's difficult to save even if you want to. But you must find some way to tip this balance so you have extra money coming in, otherwise, you'll never be able to afford to retire.
You might be able to create some room in your budget simply by slashing your expenses on discretionary purchases, like dining out or clothing. If that's not enough, you could look for ways to reduce some of your basic living expenses, like downsizing your home or moving to a more affordable area. Another option is to start a side hustle or pursue a promotion at your current job to get extra money coming in and to increase your eventual Social Security benefits. If your employer offers a 401(k) match, take full advantage because doing so reduces the amount you need to save for retirement on your own.
If that's not enough, you might have to push your retirement date back a bit to give yourself extra time to save, or plan to work part-time in retirement so your savings don't quickly dwindle. But whatever you do, don't keep kicking the problem down the road, assuming you'll have more money to save in the future. The longer you wait to start saving, the more you need to save each month in order to hit your retirement goals.
2. There are too many unknown factors
This is another legitimate concern because you have no way of knowing how long you'll live, what expenses you may incur in retirement, or how well your investments will perform over time. So pinpointing exactly how much you need is challenging. But it's better to give it your best guess rather than ignoring retirement planning altogether.
Estimate the length of your retirement by subtracting the age you'd like to retire from your estimated life expectancy. Figure high to be safe. There's a good chance you'll live past 90 or even 95 if you're in reasonably good health. Next, calculate your annual living expenses in retirement and multiply this by the number of years of your retirement, adding in 3% annually for inflation. Your retirement calculator should do this part for you. If it asks about your estimated investment rate of return, use 5% to 6% to be conservative. Then, your calculator should indicate how much you need to save overall and per month to reach your goal. Subtract any money you expect from Social Security or an employer 401(k) match to figure out how much you need to save on your own. You can estimate your Social Security benefits by creating a my Social Security account.
If you're worried about this estimate being too low, add some extra cushion to be safe. You could also seek input from a financial advisor if you're not sure how much you need to save. Choose a fee-only financial advisor instead of one that's fee-based. Fee-based advisors may earn commissions for recommending investment products which could cause them to place their financial interests ahead of your own.
3. You have too much debt
Debt can tie up a lot of your funds, leaving you little money left over to put toward retirement. Prioritizing debt repayment now isn't always easy, but it can save you a lot of money over the long term and keep you on track for your retirement goals. It's especially important to get credit card debt under control because those high-interest rates cause your balance to swell quickly.
It's up to you to decide whether you'd like to tackle your debt before or in conjunction with saving for retirement. If you have a small amount of debt, throwing all your money at it for a few months until it's gone makes sense. Then, you can put all your extra savings toward retirement or your other financial goals. But if you have a large amount of debt, splitting your extra money between debt repayment and retirement savings may make more sense. You may still have to cut back on your spending or look into ways to increase your income, like starting a side hustle, in order to free up more cash for debt repayment and savings. For credit card debt, you could also try transferring your balance to a card with a 0% introductory APR or taking out a personal loan to cover the debt and secure you a regular monthly payment.
No one said planning for retirement is easy, but all the excuses in the world don't change the fact that it's still essential if you ever hope to leave the workforce and support yourself into your old age. If any of these issues have stopped you from planning for retirement in the past, try some of the tips mentioned to overcome these barriers and create a plan for your future.