Without independent retirement savings, you risk struggling financially during your senior years, even if you're willing to lead a relatively frugal lifestyle at that point. In fact, Social Security is only designed to replace about 40% of your pre-retirement income, provided you're an average earner. This means that you'll need a means of supplementing those benefits to ensure that you're able to cover your bills.
Unfortunately, most of today's workers are behind on retirement savings, according to TD Ameritrade's 2019 Retirement Pulse Survey. Specifically, 66% of millennials, 73% of Gen Xers, and 51% of baby boomers admit that they need to do some serious catching up. If you're in the same boat, here are three potential solutions.
1. Slash one major expense and bank the difference
You'll often hear that cutting out your daily latte could spell the difference between retiring comfortably or not. In reality, that's lousy advice. While eliminating small purchases can certainly add up over time, if you're really short on retirement funds, a more effective approach is to slash one major expense and allocate the savings involved to your IRA or 401(k). And by "major expense," we're talking about things like housing and transportation -- line items in your budget that, if reduced, could free up multiple hundreds of dollars a month.
Housing is the typical American's largest monthly expense, so if you were to downsize your home and pocket an additional $500 a month because of it, that's money you can instead put into long-term savings. In fact, if you were to invest $500 a month over a 25-year period, you'd boost your nest egg by about $380,000, assuming you generate an average annual 7% return on your investments (which is doable with a stock-heavy portfolio over that long a savings window).
Furthermore, AAA reports that it costs $8,849 a year, on average, to own a vehicle. If you're willing to get rid of a car and rely on public transportation instead, you might cut that cost down to $2,000 or less, especially when you eliminate expenses like car payments, auto insurance, and maintenance. And from there, you can bank your savings to increase your nest egg.
2. Work a second job
Cutting expenses in your budget is easier said than done, and if you're truly behind on savings, it may not be enough to give your nest egg the boost it needs. A good solution, therefore, may be to get a second job on top of your main one, and use your earnings from it to pad your IRA or 401(k).
Not surprisingly, as per the aforementioned study, millennials are more open to getting a side hustle than any other age group, with 28% expressing a willingness to take on an additional job. But it's a smart thing to consider if you're older and low on savings, because chances are, you'll need some supplemental income during retirement. If you succeed at a side hustle while working full-time, you'll have the option to carry that second job with you into your senior years.
3. Extend your career
Millennials who are behind on retirement savings generally have ample opportunity to make up for lost time. Gen Xers and baby boomers, not so much. If you're already at or past the midpoint of your career and are behind in savings, it pays to consider extending your time in the workforce. By doing so, you'll have a few extra years to add money to your nest egg, all the while leaving your existing savings untapped.
A good 46% of Gen Xers are open to working longer to catch up on their retirement savings, according to the above-mentioned survey, but only 35% of baby boomers feel similarly. If you're not keen on extending your career, here's some information that might get you to change your tune: There's data supporting the idea that working longer can actually lead to a longer life.
If you're behind on retirement savings, it's imperative that you prioritize your nest egg from this point forward. Otherwise, you'll risk sentencing yourself to years of financial struggles when you're older.