Maybe you’ve been spending the last several years paying down your student loans. Maybe you took some time off to stay home with the kids while they were young, keeping you from saving. Perhaps tough times kept you out of a job and decimated your nest egg, or you simply let time pass without thinking about the future. Is it too late to rescue your financial security?
It is never too late to do something to ensure that you can pay your bills and be happy when you do stop working for pay. True the sooner you begin saving for the future, the more choices you will have, but there are always choices.
Take Ben and Jeanette. Ben is in his early sixties. He would love to be able to stop working and spend more time riding his motorcycle and seeing the National Parks with Jeannette. Work is a hassle. The commute is long. But with too little saved for retirement, giving up work just now is out of the question.
It’s not that Ben and Jeanette didn’t save along the way. They did, but just not enough. And they took a hit to their retirement account when they used a big portion of their savings to pay for college expenses for their two children. The timing couldn’t have been worse. They took the withdrawal in the depths of the financial crisis. The combination of the low valuation on their investments and the taxes they had to pay meant it would take a long time to rebuild their savings. They had less time for their savings to work for them.
Ben realized his dilemma when he started trying to figure out when exactly they would be able to retire. Between his and Jeanette’s social security benefits and their current savings, they wouldn’t have nearly enough for a comfortable lifestyle. Ben sharpened his pencil and came up with a new plan.
First, Ben plans to work until he is 70. This will not only allow them to save more over the next several years, but it will increase their social security benefit. Delaying taking social security benefits until Ben is 70 will increase the benefit by about 25 percent.
Second, he and Jeanette are saving like crazy. Now the kids are off on their own, they have more money to sock away for their eventual retirement. That is their priority, and he and Jeanette will make their savings goal before they do anything else with their money.
Third, they are planning to be mortgage free by the time Ben and Jeanette stop working. They won’t be able to accomplish that in their current home, but they can move to a lower cost area. They have already decided on a cheaper location where they can buy a house outright with the equity in their current home. With less than ten years remaining to work, Ben and Jeanette will be able to fill the gap in their savings and have the retirement they want.
There are more ways than one to make up for a shortfall in your savings. Valarie, who had to take on a mortgage after retirement, is considering renting out a room in her house so she can have more wiggle room in her budget. Katherine and her husband, James, bought a home with their adult daughter’s family and converted the garage to an apartment for themselves. Cassel, like Ben and Jeanette, moved to Ohio from Portland at the age of 69 so that he and his wife, Sandra, could afford to buy a home and pay less for housing than their high Portland rent.
You don’t have to spend as much as you do today to be happy. T. Rowe Price did a survey of recent retirees who had at least some money in a 401k account or IRA, and found that most are able to manage. On average, the more than 1,000 retirees surveyed live on two thirds of their pre-retirement income. While three in ten are surprised by how hard it is to live without their working income, 85 percent said they didn’t need to spend as much as they did while they were working to be happy.
Of course, the earlier you begin saving for the future the easier it will be. You can get away with saving less of your income the earlier you start, and you will have far more flexibility to create the type of retirement that you want. But even if you didn’t start saving early, you can still find financial security after you stop working. If you are open minded about a lifestyle that is different from your’s today, you might be surprised by how many options you have. It’s never too late to start planning for your future.
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