Many pre-retirees are in big trouble with retirement preparedness, according to a recent report from the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.

Among workers between the ages of 51 and 56, 18.6% have absolutely no retirement wealth, the study says. That means close to one in five Americans who are within a decade of retiring are preparing to leave the workforce with little or no money to see them through.

If you're one of those pre-retirees with no savings, there's still time to act -- but you'll need to do it ASAP. These tips can help you salvage your retirement and hopefully have a little financial security late in life. 

Older couple looking at financial paperwork.

Image source: Getty Images.

Start saving right now -- and save aggressively

If you're still in your mid-50s, you have some time left to save for retirement -- but you need to get serious about it.

If you have access to a 401(k) at work, start by signing up for it, if you haven't already. Most workers can contribute up to $19,500 in pre-tax dollars in 2020, and those 50 or over can make additional catch-up contributions of $6,500 .This means you could contribute a total of $26,000 in pre-tax funds. And many employers provide matching contributions equaling a percentage of your contribution, so you could get some extra help saving. 

Depending on your income and access to a retirement plan at work, you may also be able to make tax-deductible contributions of up to $7,000 to an IRA ($6,000 in standard contributions plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution if you're 50 or older). You can open an IRA with any brokerage firm, so you don't need to have a workplace plan.

By cutting your budget, picking up some income for a side gig, or doing some overtime, you can get serious about saving and still amass a pretty good nest egg from your mid-50s to your mid-60s.

If you start at 55 and contribute $2,500 per month to your retirement account until age 65, you'd end up with almost $460,000 by the time you're ready to retire (assuming an 8% return on investment). This could produce about $18,400 in retirement income for you annually, assuming you withdraw 4% of your account balance in your first year of retirement.  

Plan to work a few extra years

When you've reached your 50s without any retirement savings, you don't have much time to prepare for the future. But you can extend that by working a few extra years.

Working for longer could help you in a few important ways: You'll have more time to save, your savings won't have to support you for as long a time, and you can delay Social Security benefits (which means you'll get larger checks than if you claimed them earlier)

Look into a scaled-down retirement

Unless you dramatically increase your savings rate or get a financial windfall, having little savings in your 50s means you must live on less. This is a lot easier if you downsize immediately instead of overspending for a few years to try to maintain your lifestyle.

By moving to a cheaper home, you may be able to eliminate your mortgage payment and even cash out some equity to put into the bank. You'll also reduce property tax, maintenance, and utility costs. You could also choose a tax-friendly state to move to reduce your tax bill. 

You can get a cheaper car or getting rid of your vehicle altogether, or explore other ways to cut your budget. The key is to start looking into options now and get a better idea of how much money you'll actually need when you retire.

Pre-retirees can't afford to continue on this path

Having retirement savings is essential before you leave the workforce. Social Security benefits, which averaged just $1,471 per month in 2019, aren't going to be enough -- and chances are, you have no pension.

If you're in your 50s with no savings, start following these tips today so you won't retire broke.