My dad retired this year, and I’ve got to admit that I’m worried.

He retired and started claiming Social Security benefits early, which resulted in him receiving a much lower payout. But a lifetime of hard manual labor and two open-heart surgeries means that he needs to retire now rather pushing himself in a job even longer.

While I’m trying not to be the nosy daughter and demand to know if my parents are financially ready for his retirement, I am taking a hard look at my finances to see if I’m prepared to act as a safety net and making the right choices for my own retirement.

And I know my dad’s story is a too-familiar one…

A Savings Problem

Americans aren’t the best savers. We like pretty, shiny things. We like to take trips. We like to live and do and play right now.

But that can have a big impact on those years late in life when sources of steady income are harder to come by and far less reliable.

While the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports that 6 out of 10 American workers are confident in their ability to retire comfortably, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that 50% of Americans 55 or older have no retirement savings.

And Fidelity’s Retirement Preparedness Measure — which takes into account current savings rates and account balances — shows that less than 50% of Americans are going to be able to maintain their current standards of living in retirement.

What’s more, GoBankingRates reports that 69% of adults have less than $1,000 in the bank, and 34% don’t have any savings at all. Only 37% of seniors 65 or older have $1,000 or more in the bank.

And finally, a recent Transamerica survey showed that just 26% of Americans think they are saving enough for retirement.

That’s a lot of numbers that paint one clear picture: You probably don’t have enough money saved for retirement.

But for many, it’s not too late.

Take Steps Now to Save Your Tomorrow

I don’t want to slip into a discussion of the government, Social Security and the rising cost of health care. Regardless of which side of the aisle you claim, the picture doesn’t look rosy. When it comes to saving for the future, I find it more comfortable to be a pessimist (i.e., I can’t rely on Social Security to be there to supplement my income for my so-called golden years.) What’s the worst-case scenario? I save too much for retirement? That’s not a bad problem to have.

If you’re still working and have several years in the workforce ahead of you, max out that 401(k) or IRA. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times, but saving early and compounding is your best bet.

Not maxed out yet? Try waiting until you get that next bump in pay and lift your contribution percentage then. You’ll increase what you’re saving while not feeling the pinch in your regular paycheck.

And did you know that you’re not limited to just 401(k)s and IRAs when it comes to saving for your retirement? You can also use your health savings account. Ted Bauman has created a special report on how you can use your health savings account as another vehicle for retirement savings. (Click here to see the report.)

If you’re running out of working years, one of the best things you can do is put off claiming your Social Security benefits. I know the scary idea is that they might not be there when you need them, but it truly is best to wait. You will receive approximately an 8% increase in benefits for every year you put off your Social Security filing beyond your full retirement age, up until age 70.

Your Nest Egg

These three tips are just a glimpse of the options available to you when it comes to properly growing and protecting your nest egg. While your options definitely become more limited the older you are, you are not left without choices when it comes to funding your retirement years.

My dad is planning to enjoy a few months of leisure and then find some part-time employment — both to supplement his income and to keep from driving my mother crazy. We’re also looking to maximize his investments without adding more risk to his portfolio.

Don’t wait to save your retirement.


Jocelynn Smith
Sr. Managing Editor, Sovereign Investor Daily

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