Don't just give up on your retirement goals if you find you've entered middle age with little to no retirement savings.

Sure, that will make it harder to reach your retirement goals than if you had started saving in your 20s or 30s, but here are some strategies to consider:

  • Compromise to reach your goals. First, thoroughly analyze your situation, calculating how much you need for retirement, what income sources will be available, how much you have saved, and how much you need to save annually to reach your goals. If you can't save that amount, then it may be time to compromise those goals. Consider postponing retirement for a few years so you have more time to accumulate savings as well as delay withdrawals from those savings.

    Think about working after retirement on at least a part-time basis. Even a modest amount of income after retirement can substantially reduce the amount you need saved for retirement. Look at downsizing your expectations, possibly traveling less or moving to a less expensive city or to a smaller home.
  • Contribute the maximum to your 401(k) plan. Your contributions, up to a maximum of  $17,500 (up from $17,000 in 2012) are deducted from your current-year gross income. If you are age 50 or older, your plan may allow an additional $5,500 catch-up contribution bringing your maximum contribution to $23,000 for 2013 (up from $22,500 in 2012). If your employer matches contributions, you are essentially losing money when you don't contribute enough to receive the maximum matching contribution.

    Matching contributions can help significantly with your retirement savings. For example, assume your employer matches 50 cents for every dollar you contribute, up to a maximum of 6 percent of your pay. If you earn $75,000 and contribute 6 percent of your pay, you would contribute $4,500 and your employer would put in an additional $2,250.


  • Look into traditional deductible and Roth individual retirement accounts 
    (IRAs).  In 2012 you can contribute a maximum of $5,000 to an IRA plus an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution if you are age 50 or older. Even if you participate in a company-sponsored retirement plan, you can make contributions to an IRA, provided your adjusted gross income does not exceed certain limits. 

  • Reduce your pre-retirement lifestyle. Typically, you'll want a retirement lifestyle similar to your lifestyle before retirement. Become a big saver now and you enjoy two advantages. First, you save significant sums for your retirement. Second, you're living on much less than you're earning, so you'll need less for retirement.

    For instance, if you live on 100 percent of your income, you'll have nothing left to save toward retirement. At retirement, you'll probably need close to 100 percent of your income to continue your current lifestyle. With savings of 10 percent of your income, you'll be living on 90 percent of your income. At retirement, you'll probably be able to maintain your standard of living with 90 percent of your current income.


  • Move to a smaller home.  As part of your efforts to reduce your pre-retirement lifestyle, consider selling your home and moving to a smaller one, especially if you have significant equity in your home. If you've lived in your home for at least two of the previous five years, you can exclude $250,000 of gain if you are a single taxpayer and $500,000 of gain if you are married filing jointly. At a minimum, this strategy will reduce your living expenses so you can save more. If you have significant equity in your home, you may be able to use some of the proceeds for savings.

  • Substantially increase your savings as you approach retirement. Typically, your last years of employment are your peak earning years. Instead of increasing your lifestyle as your pay increases, save all pay raises. Anytime you pay off a bill, such as an auto loan or your child's college tuition, take the money that was going toward that bill and put it in your retirement savings.

  • Restructure your debt. Check whether refinancing will reduce your monthly mortgage payment. Find less costly options for consumer debts, including credit cards with high interest rates. Systematically pay your debts down. And most important -  don't incur any new debt. If you can't pay cash for something, don't buy it.

  • Stay committed to your goals.  At this age, it's imperative to maintain your commitment to saving.

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