For most Americans, retirement isn't necessarily something to look forward to. Instead, it's a source of financial concern, with a recent survey from Capital One showing that 68% of Americans think they won't have enough money in their later years. And this was before the coronavirus, which has caused even more concern about retirement readiness due to unprecedented job losses and stock market volatility.
If you're worried about having the cash you need as a senior, you don't have to just resign yourself to living on less. You can take these four steps right now to build a bigger nest egg that your future self will thank you for.
1. Figure out what you actually need to save
While the majority of Americans are worried they won't have enough to retire, most don't even know what enough is. That's because, according to another survey, as many as 60% of people haven't even calculated how much they need to set aside for their later years.
You can't know whether you're on track for a secure future if you don't know what your goal is, so setting your goal is the first step. There are several ways to set a retirement goal, but one of the easiest is to assume you'll need 10 times what you're earning when you stop working. Estimate your final salary by assuming you get a 2% raise each year from now until retirement, multiply that number by 10, and that's how much you should have invested for your future.
2. Break big goals into smaller ones
Once you have your target number, you know how much you need to save over your career. But it doesn't do you much good to simply figure out that you need $1 million in 20 years -- that's too big a number and too long a timeline.
Instead, break down your big goal into a series of small ones. Figure out how much you need to save each year, then each month, so you can hit your target and have enough for retirement savings. If you're 30 with nothing invested and you want to save $1 million by age 67, for example, you'd want to set a goal for yourself of saving about $480 a month if you expect to earn a 7% return on your investment. That way, it's much easier to figure out if you're accomplishing that goal. Retirement calculators are a great starting point to understand how much you need to save to reach your goals.
3. Make retirement savings mandatory
If you've set a specific monthly goal for yourself, you can make sure you achieve it by automating transfers to your retirement accounts every payday. If you have access to a workplace 401(k), it's easy to sign up and set up automatic deductions from your paycheck. Online brokers and banks also allow for automated investing, so you can do this on your own with an IRA, too.
It helps to have a budget when you're automating your retirement investments to ensure that the disappearance of your money into your retirement accounts on payday doesn't leave you with too little to cover necessities. When you create your budget, make retirement savings an essential bill like rent and utilities.
4. Don't forget to factor in healthcare, taxes, and inflation
Healthcare and taxes will both take a big bite out of your retirement accounts, while inflation can eat away at your buying power.
If you're retiring 37 years from now, for example, $1 million may seem like a lot, but it'll only be worth about $322,664 in today's dollars after accounting for rising prices over time. And you have to pay taxes on your withdrawals too, unless you're entirely invested in Roth accounts. Meanwhile, Medicare does provide some healthcare coverage, but out-of-pocket spending for a senior couple already tops $369,000 during retirement, according to some estimates. It's likely to be even more by the time you're ready to quit working.
If you haven't set your retirement goals to factor in medical costs, taxes, and inflation, you may have set your target too low and should reevaluate.
Planning helps build a more secure retirement
By figuring out how much money you'll need, setting the right goals, and prioritizing retirement investing, you should be able to provide yourself with financial security, even if the coronavirus is currently affecting your ability to save.
If you want to join the minority of Americans who are confident they have the cash they need, take these four steps today to get on the right path.