Time For You Features

What to Do if You Are Turning 50 and Haven’t Saved for Retirement

  • Print Page

By Cindy Diccianni, RN, CSA, CLTC, financial advisor
Special to

You are suddenly and without warning 50 years old. Wow, where did the time go? With the passing of this magical birthday you realize that the years you have left for working are rapidly coming to an end and you need to really focus on planning for your retirement.

How do you get started in this difficult process? There are several things to consider when planning for retirement.

Evaluate Your Current Situation

First, evaluate what you need in terms of real dollars in retirement. Be sure to factor in inflation as 4 to5 percent. Inflation will erode any financial plan. Historically, the rates will run an average of 4.8 percent annually. Recent inflationary rates are 2 to 3 percent.

Look at your current debt and try to eliminate it as quickly as possible. Determine what your expenses will be in retirement—will your home be paid for? Will you need to buy health care insurance or will your current insurance last into retirement? Health insurance can be a major expense in retirement and will go up substantially as time goes on.

Evaluate what you have already. Determine if you are getting a good rate of return on your money or if you need professional guidance. It is vitally important that you seek the help of a financial advisor who can evaluate your goals and objectives and guide you in you retirement.

Save The Dollars

Put every dollar possible into a tax deferred and tax deductible plan. Maximize your employer-based plan and take full advantage of your catch-up provision:

Plan Type 2003 2004 2005 2006 401(k), 403(b), 457, SEP $2,000 $3,000 $4,000 $6,000 IRA Catch up provision $500 $500 $500 $1,000 Regular IRA $3,000 $3,000 $4,000 $4,000

By maximizing your tax-deductible contributions and taking advantage of the catch-up provision, you will be accomplishing two important savings: the first is lowering your federal tax burden, and second, putting more toward your retirement.

Monitor Your Spending

Create a new budget and start with the absolute essential expenses. Some financial advisors refer to this as a “zero-based” budget. On this budget the very first entry is your retirement! Paying yourself first is the most important part of this equation. Then comes the mortgage and other debt payments or the required “fixed expenses.” Fixed expenses are the ones that you do not have much control over such as utilities, food and the like.

Cut back on your discretionary expenditures. “Discretionary expenses” are the ones you have some control over. This is the area where you have more flexibility over what goes out versus how much you can keep in your pocket. Keep track of all of the money you spend and learn to be more careful with how you choose to spend each dollar. It sounds rather basic but this is one of the most difficult aspects of life. Many people spend money for convenience or on impulse. And these are costly. It comes down to what we learned as a child and I often refer to this as “Gimme, I want, buy me, can I go?” We spend like crazy when we are younger and unknowingly set ourselves up to continue this type of spending as an adult. We all want to spend our money now rather than later. Retirement is a ‘later’ item. If you use discretion now, the later will be awesome.

Make More Money

Take a look at you current work situation. Is a raise or promotion on the horizon? Could you be making more money elsewhere or be working for a company that has a better retirement benefits (especially a pension plan, which benefits older workers)? Most pension plans are going by the wayside, but there are some companies that still offer this benefit. Would taking a second job now be worth it to you to create more wealth in the future? Could a nonworking spouse get a job now that your children are grown?

Starting a small business on the side is certainly a possibility, especially if you are close to retirement. You can turn a hobby into a revenue stream. This offers several benefits, in addition to the addition revenues. First, you can usually contribute up to 25 percent of your self-employment income to a tax-deductible Keogh plan even if you’re already putting money in another plan. Second, your new knowledge and experience makes you more valuable to your current employer. And third, when you do retire, you’ll have an income stream from that business. (Who knows, maybe the business will become very successful and you could retire early.)

After Retirement

While you may plan to retire at 65 years of age, please note that many people are choosing to continue to work after retirement age. Either they need the additional income or they enjoy keeping their minds and bodies engaged through active employment. It’s a great opportunity to perform work, perhaps part-time, that you enjoy or find rewarding without the pressures and stress of your long-term careers. You may want to plan that in your mind now.

Be realistic in your projections and your dreams. Look over what we covered in this article and do some “what if” scenarios and projections. A good financial advisor will assist you in achieving your goals. You do not want to find yourself retired and broke. It is never too late to start. Every dollar you can save today will give you more flexibility and options when you retire.

Cindy Diccianni is a registered nurse, a certified senior advisor (CSA), a registered investment advisor and a registered representative with leigh baldwin & company member NASD and SIPC. she is affiliated with Ortner, O’brien & Ortner advisory group and co-founder of nurturing your success. Visit Cindy at nurture your success.