Are you behind on saving for retirement? It's never too late to save as much as you can.
Are you behind on saving for retirement? It's never too late to save as much as you can.

If you’re nearing retirement age and your 401(k) account is looking paltry, you’re not alone. Many Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement and looking at their savings is a cause of anxiety rather than what it should be: excitement for a new stage in their lives.

The good news is that there is hope. Although you’re late to the party, you can still play catch up with your retirement savings. But it will come with some sacrifices. For some it requires a drastic change in lifestyle, while for others it’s a simple matter of being more disciplined.

It is suggested that you will need about 80% of your salary to live off of in retirement in order to maintain your current lifestyle. In order to catch up you will have to implement some simple pieces of advice: save (a lot) more, adjust your current lifestyle, and plan to work longer.

Most workers saving for retirement do so by contributing to a 401(k) account, which is expected to make up most of their retirement income. If you’re 40 with little to no retirement savings, you’ll need to start contributing at a faster pace than your younger counterparts.

That 40 year-old, by contributing $17,500 annually, will have a comfortable $1.3 million at age 65. Also, by contributing an additional $5,500 after age 50, they will have an additional $271,000. That’s a nice retirement by most standards, even possible though this individual began relatively late.

If you don’t have access to a traditional 401(k) and have an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), then you’ll want to contribute the maximum amount ($5,500 in 2016). That same 40 year-old, by contributing the extra $5,500, will have an additional $434,000 by 65.

Even starting at age 50 and contributing the maximum $6,500 per year, that same person will have an additional $190,000 by age 65. Not exactly a plush amount, but it’s a start.

But retiring at 65 for these hypothetical people is probably not the best route. Delaying retirement by just a couple of years can make a dramatic difference in your retirement. Each year you work after 65, your Social Security benefits increase by roughly 7-8%. For a late starter, that can make quite a difference.

Oh, and make sure that these contributions are automatically taken out of your paycheck. It’s easier that way.

There are other ways to really boost your retirement accounts. If you own a large house (or really a house that’s larger than you need), think about downsizing to a smaller home and using the extra cash from that sale to better your chances of having a comfortable retirement. The earlier you pad your retirement account, the higher the potential is for compound interest.

Any additional income you receive from bonuses, raises, or other jobs should go straight into your retirement whether it’s a 401(k), IRA, or a personal savings account. It’s a lot of work and sacrifice now, but you’ll thank yourself when you can finally spend your days on the golf course.