Over a quarter of workers report being far off track when it comes to retirement savings, according to TIAA's Financial Resiliency survey, despite the majority of participants listing retirement as a major financial goal. If you're among this group, I have good news. No matter where you're at right now, there are steps you can take to make your senior years better. The following tips may not get you the retirement you'd always envisioned, but they can help you begin to move in the right direction.
Know how much you actually need
It's easy to feel like you're off track when you're unsure how much you actually need for retirement in the first place. If you haven't actually calculated how much you must save for retirement, do so now. You may realize you're not as far off track as you expected. Even if you are, you can't begin to correct the problem until you know how bad it is.
You don't want to underestimate your retirement costs, so plan to live into your 90s at least unless you have good reason to think you won't. A retirement calculator can help you estimate your costs and figure out how much your existing savings could grow to between now and your retirement.
Try to boost your savings
Increasing your savings rate is the ideal solution if you'd like to stick to your original retirement plan. If you have extra cash on hand, it might be as simple as putting more money into your 401(k) or IRA each month.
If you don't have a lot of money to spare, you may have to rearrange your budget to free up more cash for retirement. Eliminate discretionary purchases and look for ways to reduce your essential expenses, like using coupons and credit card rewards.
You could also try to squeeze more money out of your job by pursuing a promotion or switching employers, though you may find that difficult to do in the current economic climate. Or you could try starting a side hustle. There are plenty of opportunities available, even in the midst of a pandemic, including things like grocery delivery and virtual assisting. Think about what best suits your skills and interests and consider exploring a side business in your spare time.
Reduce the cost of your retirement
Look over your retirement budget for any non-essential expenses you could cut or reduce if you have to. This includes things like travel, hobby expenses, or even financial gifts and donations. Removing these things from your budget can reduce how much you need to save, though you have to be balanced. You'll want to enjoy yourself in retirement, so you'll still need to save a little for entertainment expenses.
You can also delay retirement if you need to cut costs. This has the dual benefit of reducing the amount you need to save while also giving you more time to set aside money. It gives your existing retirement savings more time to grow as well so you have more investment earnings to fall back on.
But you shouldn't rely upon this strategy as your only method for getting your retirement plan back on track. It can be very effective, but delaying retirement and reducing retirement expenses isn't always possible. An unforeseen illness or injury could leave you unable to work and lead to big medical bills. Or you may have to stop work to care for a sick family member.
You can't plan for every scenario, but you should have a backup plan for what you'll do if something like this arises. You may be able to continue working part time or you could try to find a job that enables you to work remotely. Have a few different ideas in mind so you can be flexible no matter what arises.
You're likely to save more for retirement in some years than others and your investment returns will also vary, so you need to stay connected to what's happening with your retirement plan. Review it at least once per year and go through the above steps again to see if there are any additional moves you can make to get your plan back on track.