Many workers spend much of their careers waiting for the day they can finally leave work for good and start enjoying life on their own terms. But for millions of Americans, achieving that dream doesn't seem feasible.
Around 42% of workers fear they'll never be able to retire, according to a recent survey from SimplyWise. Older workers over age 50 are also pessimistic, with around one-third saying they're concerned they'll never retire.
Retiring comfortably doesn't have to be an unrealistic goal, however. And by taking these steps, you can get your retirement plans back on track.
1. Set a savings goal
The first step is figuring out what it costs to retire. If you're behind on your savings, calculating your retirement goal may be intimidating. But even if you find that you need to up your savings game, having a target in mind can give you something to aim for.
Using a retirement calculator is one of the easiest ways to determine your savings goal. After plugging in your information, you'll be able to see how much you should save by retirement age, as well as the amount you should be saving each month.
If your goal feels a little overwhelming right now, that's OK. The next two steps can help put that target within reach.
2. Revamp your budget
The average American spends almost $500 per month on unnecessary expenses, a survey from Charles Schwab revealed, despite the fact that nearly 60% of survey participants say they're living paycheck to paycheck. Even if you think you don't have a penny to spare, reworking your budget could help you find some extra cash.
First, start tracking your spending. Not only will you know where every dollar is going, but it will also help you be more aware of when you're spending on unnecessary expenses. You can track your spending the manual way in a spreadsheet or take advantage of various apps that will do it for you.
After you've determined where you're spending your money each month, start making cuts. Begin by eliminating truly unnecessary costs, like subscription services you never use. Then start cutting back on the nice-to-have expenses, such as online shopping or takeout. Finally, try to find ways to reduce your essential costs, like groceries or utilities. You may need to make some sacrifices, but saving even a little extra each month can go a long way toward reaching your retirement goals.
3. Assess your expectations
Depending on how much you've saved and your age, reaching your initial retirement goal may not be realistic. However, that doesn't mean you'll never be able to retire.
Instead, consider adjusting your retirement expectations. Go back to your retirement calculator and start changing some of the inputs to see how it will affect the amount you should save. For example, try adjusting the amount you estimate you'll spend every year. If you think you'll need 85% of your current income in retirement, for instance, see how your savings goal would change if you only needed 75% of your current wages.
Also, think about whether you're willing to make major life changes in order to retire. Is it possible to move to a more affordable city or neighborhood? What about downsizing to a smaller house? Are you willing to pick up a second job to boost your income? These types of adjustments could potentially help you save hundreds or thousands of dollars per month, making retirement much more affordable.
Saving enough to retire comfortably can feel impossible. However, if you develop a strategy and a willingness to make sacrifices, this goal may be within reach.