We all know it’s important to save for retirement. So why is it that when it comes to saving, most Americans fall short? If you’re worried about your retirement savings game, this blog is for you.
Retirement can be a time of great joy, but it can also be a time of great stress. Many people spend their whole adult lives anticipating the independence of retirement, but saying goodbye to one’s constant source of income may be frightening when the time comes. According to the Federal Reserve, about a quarter of Americans have no retirement savings at all, and almost two-thirds of non-retired adults are concerned about being able to meet their retirement savings goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lifestyle shift that is having an immediate effect on finances and planning. In addition, if you’re retired, market declines and economic uncertainty may induce concern as you assess your financial situation.
While there are many factors that affect your overall financial health, it is important to consider how your retirement plans may change in light of recent circumstances. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as the ticking clock to retirement nears.
Set Your Retirement Savings Goal
Retirement planning is a big, intimidating goal—but it doesn't have to be. There are so many variables to consider. How much will you need for vacations? Could you end up facing big medical expenses? What age will you stop working entirely? How long will you actually live? Research has found that those who have written goals and a written plan for achieving those goals are 1.2–1.4 more likely to succeed. Other studies have shown that having a plan can double your savings rate.
If you start saving early, with small amounts of your income, you'll be able to fund a comfortable retirement and still enjoy life along the way. The more time your money has to grow, the more money you'll have when it's time to stop working.
Here are some ways you can help your nest egg grow:
- Contribute as much as you can to your employer-sponsored account—401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or Thrift Savings Plan. In 2022, you can contribute up to $20,500. If you're at least 50 or will be by year's end, you can also make a catch-up contribution of $6,500, for a total of $27,000.
- Make sure your employer is contributing enough to cover their share of matching funds. If not, ask them if they'd consider increasing their contribution rate so that more of your salary goes toward investment growth than toward fees and expenses associated with managing those investments.
If you're trying to catch up on a previously set goal, your money moves and savings rate need to be more aggressive. Use our free online calculators to get a good estimate of how much you need to save in order to alleviate the stress of living on a fixed income.
In addition to being aggressive with how much you save, you’ll want to be fairly aggressive in how you invest those savings. You should meet with your financial advisor to discuss riskier investments in order to compound at higher rates of return over an extended period of time.
Plan for Social Security
Social Security is a great tool for retirees. It's important to understand how to get the most out of your benefits, though.
You can start taking Social Security as early as age 62. But you'll receive a smaller check each month than you will if you wait until your full retirement age. If you wait until after your full retirement age, your Social Security income will increase up to 8% for every year you delay, up to age 70. After age 70, there's no further increase for delaying. If you want to maximize your benefits, it's important to know when to start taking them and how much they'll be worth if you do so.
Consider Tax Strategies Early On
One of the most important things to consider while you're still saving for retirement, is how to minimize taxes down the road. While tax laws and rates are likely to change, there are ways to plan for these unknowns and set yourself up for a potentially better tax outcome.
One way that many people do this is by using an IRA or Roth IRA. An IRA is a tax-deferred account, which means that your money grows without being taxed until you withdraw it in retirement. Withdrawals from an IRA are also taxed as income, so it's important to consider whether or not you'll need some of your money before retirement and make sure that you're taking withdrawals accordingly (you may need to pay penalties if you take withdrawals before age 59 1/2).
A Roth IRA works in reverse: contributions are made with after-tax dollars, but any growth within the account is tax free when it's withdrawn in retirement. This can be a great option for those who expect their tax rate will be higher during retirement than it was when they were working full time.
Spreading your savings across a diverse selection of accounts with a variety of tax strategies is another way to grow your retirement savings. Consider an appropriate mix of tax-deferred Roth accounts based on your tax bracket. For example, if you're in a high tax bracket (32%-39%), you would want to consider diversifying your accounts, i.g. 401(k), 403(b), and others.
Use the Backdoor Roth IRA to Increase Savings
For 2022, the AGI phase-out contribution range for Roth IRAs for married couples filing jointly is $204,000 to $214,000 and for single taxpayers and heads of households is $129,000 to $144,000. If your current income is too high and makes you ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, there’s another way in. First, contribute to a traditional IRA. There is no income ceiling for contributions to a non-deductible traditional IRA, although there is a limit to what can be contributed.
The IRS caps the contribution limit to $6,000 or $7,000 if you are 50 or over. After the funds clear, convert the traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. That way the funds can compound for the future and be withdrawn tax-free, as long as you meet the withdrawal guidelines.
Don't Forget HSAs
With healthcare costs growing and the proliferation of high-deductible health plans (HDHP), the health savings account (HSA) is a golden retirement planning opportunity. This tool can not only be used to pay for healthcare expenses but can also be used to squirrel away additional funds for retirement.
Regularly Review and Increase Savings
While many start off saving 15% of their income for retirement, you may not be able get there right away. Or you could be living a little "too" comfortably and decide you're ready to stash away more.
For the former scenario, you can start small to take advantage of the crucial role that time plays in compounding your investment returns. Try increasing the amount you contribute to your retirement accounts by 1% every year until you reach at least 15% of your salary. For those who are ready to up their savings game, instead of upgrading to a larger home or purchasing a new car with your extra cash, try to make do with what you have to minimize your expenses and funnel your extra cash to your savings.
Remember: Retirement isn’t an age. It’s a financial number. Keep that goal in mind and remember that saving for the future is a marathon—not a sprint. The name of the game when it comes to saving money for retirement is starting early.
It's important to look at your finances and see if any of the above strategies could help you in the long run. If you’re like most people, qualified-retirement plans, Social Security, personal savings and investments are expected to play a role in growing your retirement nest egg. Once you have estimated the amount of money you may need for retirement, a sound approach involves taking a close look at your potential retirement-income sources and making amendments where needed.
At Agemy Financial Strategies, we want you to know we’re here to help you navigate retirement and answer any questions that come up during your retirement process. As Fiduciary advisors, it's our duty to act on your behalf in finding the right solutions for your individual wants and needs.