Stock market crashes. Healthcare emergencies. Investment nightmares. Many Americans who had built a nest egg that they thought would ensure a comfortable retirement have found themselves suddenly scrambling to refill their retirement fund coffers after these types of unexpected crises.
Is a healthy retirement still achievable after such a blow? Yes, but building a healthy retirement fund at a later age requires careful planning and some tough choices. To get started, consider these five exercises to rehabilitate retirement funds.
1. Slash expenses to rebuild savings. Budgeting sounds boring, but it is essential to building a tightly woven nest in which to accumulate retirement savings—as opposed to a loosely constructed one that lets unneeded expenses slip through the cracks. Remember that small changes add up.
According to HSBC’s Global Report, The Future of Retirement: A Balancing Act, the majority (81%) of working age people have had their retirement savings abilities significantly impacted by a life event. As a general rule, most households should plan to accumulate six months of living expenses for these types of unforeseen circumstances (such as a job loss or health emergency) with the goal of avoiding treating retirement accounts as cash if and when emergencies arise. And, of course, once an emergency fund is in place, extra money can be funneled toward retirement savings.
2. Create additional income opportunities. In addition to Social Security, consider creating a second income stream from a side business, seasonal, or part-time job. Ten or 15 years may not be a lot of time to build a large retirement portfolio, but it is more than enough time to develop two or three or more income streams. In some cases, what starts as a side business becomes a second career with many people working and even starting new businesses past the age of 65. So consider options now so that the new venture might be self-sustaining by age 65.
3. Reduce debt. Recent studies have shown Americans are carrying higher debt levels into retirement than ever before. In many cases, eliminating debt is a more effective way to improve cash flow than putting an equivalent amount into savings—especially within 10 or 15 years of retirement. Once debts are gone, that much more money can be funneled into savings.
4. Delay retirement. Pushing retirement for two, three, or even five years allows extra time to accumulate sometimes much-needed funds.
5. Invest cautiously. When there is not a lot of time left to accumulate, it may feel like a good idea to try a high risk/high return investment—but less time to grow a portfolio also means less time to cover large losses. A shorter timeline and less money with which to play likely means that it is time to take a walk on the conservative side of investing.
Focus Now on Improving Retirement Fund Health
Rebuilding a retirement fund isn’t something anyone should have to do on their own. According to the same HSBC report, respondents with average incomes who use professional financial advice when planning for retirement have the greatest levels of retirement and other savings. Specifically, those who had a financial plan in place with a financial adviser had so far accumulated $203,228 in retirement savings—compared to only $98,005 among those without a financial adviser.
If you have questions about rehabilitating your retirement nest egg, then call CRI’s tax CPAs and let them help you exercise your best decisions to meet your upcoming retirement needs.