By the time you reach your 50s, you should be well on your way to building a sizeable retirement nest egg. But what if that's not the case? What if you've had to neglect your 401(k) or IRA due to other pressing expenses? Though your situation may not be optimal, it's more than salvageable. Here's how to catch up on missed savings and still retire on time.

Cut one major expense

Money for your retirement plan isn't going to materialize out of thin air. You'll have to commit to cutting back on one big expense you're used to paying. Maybe you'll downsize from a two-car household to a single-car family. Maybe you'll agree that instead of your usual two-week luxury vacation, you'll do a budget camping trip instead. The key is to dump an expense that will free up a decent chunk of cash.

Older person holding pen while flipping through documents on clipboard

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Line up a second income source

The more money you earn, the easier it'll be to fund your retirement plan without skimping on too many luxuries. Line up a side gig on top of your main job. If you enjoy it, you can carry it with you into retirement to help occupy your time and generate extra cash.

Take advantage of free money in your 401(k)

Many employers that sponsor 401(k)s also match dollars for those plans. Find out how much you need to contribute to snag your full company match so you can fully take advantage of that free money.

Boost your savings rate over time

If you've never saved in a 401(k) or IRA before, you're probably not going to go from socking nothing away to maxing out your plan overnight. Rather than setting that unrealistic expectation, start slowly with the goal of increasing your savings rate gradually. For example, you might tell yourself that in the coming year, you'll put $2,000 into your retirement account, but the year after that, you'll contribute $4,000, and so forth.

Rethink your retirement plans

Having no savings by the time your 50s roll around could mean having to change long-term plans. Figure out the best solution. Delaying retirement could be your next-best move, as that will not only allow you to build savings, but also boost your Social Security benefits by delaying them. Or, downsizing or relocating someplace cheaper could be the right way to go. You still have choices at this life stage, so explore them.

By the time you reach your 50s, you should have a nice chunk of savings to your name. If you don't, don't waste energy stressing over it. Rather, plan to catch up and adjust so you're not left stressed out and cash-strapped once your time in the workforce comes to a close.