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Over 50 and Low on Savings? Here's How to Retire on Time.

By Maurie Backman - Jun 13, 2021 at 8:49AM

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You may be nearing retirement without much savings, but that doesn't mean your plans are doomed.

By the time you reach your 50s, you can legitimately start to count down to retirement and begin making plans for your senior years. But what if your retirement savings balance isn't as healthy as you'd like it to be?

You might assume that pushing back your retirement date is your best and only move. That way, you can work longer and pump more money into your IRA or 401(k).

The good news, however, is that postponing retirement isn't necessarily your sole option. Here are a few ways to salvage the situation and retire when you want to.

Two people with serious expressions looking at documents

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Take advantage of catch-up contributions

Once you turn 50, you have the option to contribute more money to your IRA or 401(k) plan than your younger counterparts. With an IRA, you can make catch-up contributions of $1,000 a year. With a 401(k), you can contribute an extra $6,500. That additional money could get you closer to your ultimate savings target.

Of course, you'll need to make some near-term lifestyle changes to eke out that extra money. That could mean taking more modest vacations or dining out less frequently. But if that enables you to boost your savings and stick to your original retirement date, it's worth doing.

2. Downsize your retirement lifestyle

If your savings can't support the senior lifestyle you want and you're not looking to delay your retirement, then you may need to rethink the way you'll spend as a senior. That could mean unloading your larger home and moving to a more compact condo, or going from having two cars in your household to just one.

You might also have to think about moving to a part of the country that's less expensive on a whole. Doing so could stretch your limited savings further.

Say you're looking at retiring with $300,000 in savings when you wanted to close out your career with $500,000. If you live in an expensive city, like New York, Chicago, or Boston, moving to a smaller city could make it so that your $300,000 feels more like $500,000 based on your expenses.

3. Plan to hold down a job

If you weren't planning to work during retirement but aren't comfortable with your level of savings in the years leading up to it, then you may need to rethink that plan. Working part-time is a great way to drum up some income and supplement your retirement plan withdrawals and Social Security benefits.

Another perk of working as a senior is that it'll give you something to do with your time that doesn't cost you money. Filling your days may not be as easy as expected once you don't have a full-time job to go to, so working part-time might actually help you avoid getting bored on top of putting a paycheck in your pocket.

Don't give up on retiring on time

Remember, even if you're within a decade of retirement, you still have a chance to catch up on savings, and it pays to pump as much money into your IRA or 401(k) as you can. But if that won't do the trick, think about the ways you can adjust your retirement lifestyle to match your financial reality.

And also, don't write off the idea of working as a senior. If you find a job that's engaging and serves as a social outlet, it may not feel like work at all.

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