Are you behind on retirement savings? 4 steps to get back on track this year.

For a substantial number of people approaching retirement, the future looks grim. Their savings rate is low, their anxiety level is high and they aren’t even sure they’ll be able to retire at all.

More than one in five adults — 22% — have no retirement savings, according to AARP. Meanwhile, 64% are worried that they will not have enough money in their later years, and 47% of adults who are not yet retired think they will need to work at least part-time in retirement for financial reasons, AARP said.

“It’s a public health crisis. Many people don’t have any retirement savings. People feel lousy — that they haven’t done enough — and say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it.’ They put their head in the sand and try not to think about it,” said Mary Liz Burns, senior director of communications strategy at AARP.

To raise awareness and in hopes of reversing this trend, AARP, the lobbying group focused on issues facing older adults, has launched a public service campaign with the Ad Council called “This is Pretirement.” The campaign is aimed at people who might feel invisible as they grapple with the stress of financing retirement, Burns said.

“The average American is having a tough time saving. They’re not alone — there are many, many people in that same position,” Burns said. “There’s no judgment about what you have or haven’t done.”

The multi-year “pretirement” campaign started in November and will continue to roll out to more markets and media outlets including TV, radio and social media. 

The ads encourage pre-retirees to face the daunting aspects of saving for retirement. There’s also a website,, that features free tips, resources and tools. Near-retirees can take a quiz and get a recommended action plan.

“Think about actions you’re taking that may be harming you, such as carrying over credit-card debt each month. Think about the steps you can take to start,” Burns said.

“Start somewhere. Anything is better than being frozen.”

Where to start? 

First, experts say you should create a budget that includes your income and all your expenses. You can do this on your own or with a financial adviser. 

“Make sure you have a plan. If you don’t do the planning, you really won’t have a successful retirement,”  said David Schneider, founder of Schneider Wealth Strategies.

JB Beckett, founder of the Beckett Financial Group, suggested working with a financial adviser who can examine your tax strategies, insurance coverage, Social Security strategy and healthcare expenses with an eye toward longevity and the unknown.

And Joel Russo, founder of N.J. Retirement Planning, noted that retirement can last a long time. “A lifetime these days can be 100-plus years. People think retirement isn’t going to be that long, but it can last 30 years or more. That’s hard to finance without a comprehensive plan,” he said.

Advisers need to look at a client’s whole situation to see the reasons someone may not be saving enough money.

“People aren’t saving enough. But why aren’t they saving enough? What else is going on for them that they can’t?” Russo said. Getting an overview of your budget and your expenses can show you where your money is going.

Catch up on contributions

“Your 50s are a really important time to be very serious,” Schneider said. “Hunker down and get serious. Every investment needs to be prudent and diversified. Increase any savings, if possible. Make catch-up contributions, if possible.”

Starting at age 50, you can make extra investments called catch-up contributions to your 401(k) and individual retirement accounts. In 2024, the 401(k) contribution limit will be $23,000, but catch-up contributions will allow you to save an additional $7,500. For IRAs, the contribution limit is $7,000, with a catch-up contribution of $1,000.

Check in with Social Security

As you work on your long-term plan, get your Social Security statement from and check it for errors. This will let you make sure you’re receiving credit for all your work over the years and find out where you stand with Social Security benefits, Schneider said.

And because the last 10 to 15 years of your career are often peak earnings years, Beckett said to take advantage of savings opportunities to maximize your retirement efforts and minimize your expenditures.

“You’re entering that retirement red zone in the last 10 to 15 years. If you haven’t saved enough, [then] cut expenses and save as much as you can,” he said. “Be careful not to spend too much. Don’t celebrate and buy a car when you get a promotion and end up with a $1,000 car payment. Use that extra money to sock away more money. Use science and math when it comes to money. Don’t get emotional with money.”

It’s also crucial to prepare for the cost of long-term care.

“The one thing that can erode an estate is long-term care,” said Eric Bond, wealth manager with Bond Wealth Management. “You might have $300,000 for long-term care, but that needs to be $500,000. It’s the most unsexy thing in the world to plan for, but you have to.”

Earn more, save more

You can also think about leveraging your experience and skills to get a higher-paying job that can help you close that savings gap, Bond said.

“The best way to save more is to earn more. Try to make as much money as you can. Your job is to get another job that pays more,” he said. “In the past, pensions would keep people at companies longer. But now you can’t rely on a company that way.”

Dial up retirement savings

“Just try saving a little extra,” Bond said. “If you find you’re only eating mac and cheese, scale it back.”

Bond also cautioned against borrowing or taking out a mortgage to fund your kids’ college education.

“They can get just as good a job coming out of a state school. College is college. Unless [they’re] going to be a doctor, an attorney or an engineer — fine. But don’t sell your house or downsize to pay for college,” Bond said.

Being open to continuing to work — even doing part-time or consulting work — can help you stretch your retirement nest egg. And working in your retirement years, if you’re healthy enough to do so, can provide not just extra income, but also routine and stimulation, which can be crucial for mental health.

In the end, your retirement is likely going to be financed by your own savings and investments. So squirrel away as much as possible.

“You only get one shot at retirement,” Beckett said. “There’s a retirement crisis out there. People need to save more — and save even more than they think.”  

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