Nearly half of baby boomers have nothing at all saved for retirement, according to a report from the Insured Retirement Institute. If you're behind on your savings, you're not alone.
Retirement can be incredibly expensive, and it's something you can't prepare for overnight. It often takes decades to accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in savings, and the longer you wait to start saving, the more challenging it will be to reach your goal.
Does that mean your retirement dreams are dashed if you're off to a late start? Fortunately, it's never too late to save for retirement. However, you'll need to be strategic in how you prepare. You don't have any time to waste, so it's important to make the most of every day. Here are three steps for getting started.
1. Don't wait another day
Saving for retirement is far easier when you start early in life. Of course, you can't go back in time and begin saving in your 20s. But you can start saving right now.
The last thing you should do is to give up on your goals because you think they're unreachable. Even if you don't have much time to prepare for retirement, you may be able to save more than you think.
For example, say you're 10 years from retirement with nothing saved. If you invest $300 per month while earning a 7% annual rate of return on your investments, you'd have close to $50,000 saved by retirement age. Although that's not enough to retire on, it's better than nothing. And saving anything at all is far better than doing nothing.
2. Invest your money
If you can find extra cash in your budget to put toward retirement, that's a great first step. But it's equally important to make sure you're investing your money rather than simply saving it.
Sticking your money in a savings account may seem safer than investing in the stock market. However, savings accounts earn interest rates of only around 1% (or less) per year. At that rate, your money may not even keep up with inflation. When you invest, though, you'll likely see average returns of anywhere from 5% to 10% per year, which will help your savings grow much faster.
That said, it's still important to be careful when deciding how to allocate your investments. Putting all your money into stocks can be risky (especially if you're relatively close to retirement age) because a market crash could devastate your savings. But investing entirely in bonds and other "safer" investments means you won't see nearly as much growth.
To find a good balance, consider the rule of 110: Subtract your age from 110, and the result is the percentage of your portfolio you should allocate toward stocks. That means if you're 50 years old, for example, aim to invest 60% of your portfolio in stocks and 40% in bonds. This will help your money grow faster while still limiting your risk.
3. Consider your retirement expectations
Depending on how close you are to retirement age, it may not be feasible to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's OK, and keep reminding yourself that doing anything is better than doing nothing. But you might need to reassess your retirement lifestyle.
If you're not able to save much for retirement, you might end up depending on your Social Security benefits to make ends meet. The average beneficiary receives just over $1,500 per month, according to the Social Security Administration, so think about how far your monthly checks will go once you're done with the working world.
Consider what types of sacrifices you might be able to make when you retire. Would you be willing to move to a more affordable neighborhood, for example? What about selling your car or downsizing your home? These major life changes can be daunting but also potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month -- making it easier to survive on Social Security and whatever savings you have.
Saving for retirement is more challenging if you're off to a late start, but it's not impossible. Don't give up, and try to save as much as you can with the time you have left. You might be able to save more than you think.