If you’re in your 40s or 50s, saving for retirement is probably a priority. And if you’re like many in that age bracket, you face several challenges: pandemic-related withdrawals of retirement savings, supporting your children, and perhaps assisting aging parents.
How can you save for a decent future while supporting your family now?
Saving for Retirement: The Pandemic Curveball
New research from Real Estate Witch analysts revealed that 35% of unretired Americans tapped their retirement savings during the pandemic for living expenses. The scariest thing is that it only took about a year for those workers to spend an average of 44% of their retirement account balances.
Millennials will pay a smaller price for their withdrawals because they have more time to replenish their savings. But Gen X and younger boomers have less time and more demands on their money.
The Clever survey respondents also reported cutting back on retirement savings during the pandemic. The amount they curtailed varied among generations.
- Millennials: 1% reduction
- Gen Xers: 11% reduction
- Boomers: 5% reduction
With the pandemic winding down and business returning to normal, most (56%) intend to resume saving for retirement, and 65% of those plan to increase retirement contributions.
Retirement Recovery: Re-Upping Savings While Supporting Your Family
You may be feeling squeezed between your parents, your children, and your expectations. But it’s possible to put your retirement planning back on track. Here are some tips to help achieve this.
Ignore pent-up demand
One reason that many increased their savings during the pandemic was the lack of opportunities to spend. And now, the world is opening up, and consumer spending is exploding.
If you’re 45 or older, put on the brakes. Things are expensive right now, and you have other priorities.
Walk back lifestyle inflation
Lifestyle inflation does real damage to retirement plans. You move into a more expensive neighborhood, so you buy a nicer car and new furniture. You reward yourself after a raise because you “deserve” more splurges and better clothes.
If you were starting over at your age, would you still buy the things you currently own? Or would you choose a smaller home, a more basic car, and cheaper vacations? You can still trade down to a more sensible lifestyle and sell off luxuries you don’t need.
Members of the “sandwich” generation get the squeeze from two sources — their children and their parents. Taking on too much for other generations when your retirement is deficient is shortsighted and can lead to an insecure and even unsafe old age. Your parents and children would not want that for you.
It can be tempting when trying to catch up with retirement savings to go a little nuts. It’s dangerous to choose the riskiest investments because they can generate higher returns. They can also bring huge losses, which you won’t have time to make up.
Look for career opportunities
Employers everywhere are scrambling for new hires, and wages are rising. If raises at your company aren’t looking promising or exciting, jumping ship might be the best way to fast-track a bigger increase. Or pick up an extra shift or part-time side hustle. Once you’re earning extra, have it deposited automatically to your retirement account and leave it there.
Hunt for savings
Budgeting is one of the most powerful tools to ensure financial health. Enlist your entire family. Tell them they need to cut X dollars to make your family financially healthy, and challenge their ingenuity. You might be surprised at how creative and committed your kids and parents can be if you make a “one-for-all and all-for-one” effort.
Try real estate
In some areas, renting costs more than buying. You could turn your current home into a profitable rental and buy a cheaper house to live in. Ask a financial planner or tax pro about owning rental property, tax advantages, and strategies such as 1031 tax-deferred exchanges.
Another option is selling your current home and buying a multi-unit property. Live in one unit and rent the others. Many people cover their entire mortgage payment with the rents, and that can free up a ton of cash for saving.
If you can work from anywhere, like many in post-pandemic workplaces, it might be time to move to a lower cost of living. That will help you save before retirement and spend less afterward.
Stay Focused and Positive
Playing catchup with your retirement can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But the pandemic challenged you before, and you made it through. Be disciplined and creative, and you’ll clear this hurdle, too.