Sluggish on Saving for Retirement as a GenXer? Take This Approach

6 min read

This story originally appeared on MarketBeat

GenXers, did you know that experts say you need to have saved a whopping six times your income for retirement by the time you’re 50? If you were born between 1965-1980 (41-56 years old), you’re at that age or close to it.

In other words, if you make $50,000 per year, you need to have at least $300,000 saved. If you make $150,000 per year, you need to have at least $900,000 saved.

Yes. That much.

Even if you’ve been a lifelong saver and investor, you might realize with a shock that you’re just shy of that “magic” figure. But here’s the deal. So many articles focus on the money — do this, not that — that they forget a completely different element of making it happen. What about laser focus, perseverance? Grit?

Here’s how to shore up your deficit (even if it is small) using your mindset and a few other techniques.

How Not Saving Enough Could Affect You

First, let’s take a bleak view at what could happen if you don’t save enough for retirement (this may not be the most powerful motivating factor, apologies for that). 

  • You’ll face the rising costs of living. Think about what taxes and insurance will cost in the future. Or a gallon of milk, for that matter.  
  • Medical expenses can affect you. Think about what it will cost in the future to get a knee or hip replacement. If the cost of total knee replacement surgery in the United States ranges between $45,000 and $70,000 now, what will the costs look like in 20 years? You may also experience paying for more prescription drugs and other health costs. 
  • You may have to work longer. You may have to work into your seventies, or at least work part-time after your desired retirement age. 
  • Social Security probably won’t float you! Just a reminder: If you think Social Security will help you out, think again. Chances are, it won’t take care of all of your monthly needs. (You already knew this, but it’s worth bringing up again.)
  • You may end up selling something. Wondering what that “something” could be? Your retirement plan may end up being that you sell your home or business even if you don’t want to.
  • You may have to accept a lower quality of life. If you miss out on these retirement benchmarks, the saddest part of doing so means you may have to scale back on your life as you know it and end up giving up on your retirement dreams.

The Idea: Reinvent Your Mindset

That’s the secret. Seems… not so secret, doesn’t it? However, when you start thinking about ways to save for retirement all the time, it can make a huge difference in how much you ultimately do save.

When you have the drive, determination and self-discipline necessary to do what you have to do, you’re unstoppable. Even more importantly, you resist short-term temptations and desires in order to achieve long-term goals. It’s the same song: long-term satisfaction over instant gratification.

You know the Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

You can use the power of your mind to:

  • Get laser-focused: When you become laser focused on something, you mentally give 100% of your attention to tasks. (Imagine how we could do that if we didn’t have cellphones to distract us.) Developing laser focus allows you to concentrate on one goal, then the next.
  • Dig into grit: This means having the courage, conscientiousness, perseverance, resilience and passion for something, according to Angela Duckworth’s famous research. Can you have grit when it comes to catching up for retirement? Of course. 

“If you are going through hell, keep going,” Winston Churchill famously said. 

Let’s go over a few other tactics that involve actual money, because I’ll acknowledge that willpower alone isn’t enough. You have to have the capital to back it up and practical tips as well.

Get a Gig

You’ll join the ranks of your younger peers, the Millennials, if you have a side hustle. A whopping 50% of millennials have a side hustle, compared with 39% of consumers overall.

What gig works for you? Think about what you do best — what would people pay you to do for just $10? (Naturally, your side gig may allow you to charge them even more!) 

Whatever that $10 thing is, multiply it by 10, then 10 again. And again. And again. Get people to help you if you need to. The point is, you can make a lot of money by just thinking about what you can do for just $10 (or more!) that you can give the world.

Now, are you going to use the money you earn to buy a boat? Go to Bermuda? 

No! You’re going to dedicate it toward your retirement accounts!

Use Catch-Up Contributions

The Internal Revenue Service sets limits on how much you can contribute to your retirement accounts each year. You can contribute $19,500 to a 401(k) or 403(b) in 2021. Those 50 or older can make an additional $6,500 catch-up in 2021 to a 401(k) or 403(b). Those with a SIMPLE IRA plan can contribute $13,500 in 2020 but you can contribute an additional $3,000 in catch-up contributions in 2021. 

Work Longer

Okay, this might not seem like something you’re interested in at all. However, it may make sense if you love your job. (Just throwing the idea out there.)

Maximizing your catch-up contributions and any employer match could add a sizable boost to your 401(k), 403(b) or traditional IRA. In addition, they could help you reduce your taxable income and lower your overall tax burden.

You’ll also delay Social Security and could collect more money if you wait. For example, if you start collecting Social Security at 62, your benefit would be about 29.2 percent lower than it would be at your full retirement age of 66 and 10 months, according to the Social Security Administration. (This calculation refers to 2021 rates.)

Downsize and Budget

Finally, get serious about everything. Take a look at your incoming cash. Divide it into immediate, short-term and long-term expenses and allocate it to the right places. Sell your house if you have to. Go budget crazy. Do anything (within reason) that you have to do to get your retirement savings because you are laser-focused.

Work on Your Mindset — the Rest Will Follow

True, this retirement/mindset information works for anyone of any age, but GenXers may feel an acute burden right now because six times their annual salary may seem huge. (At least, it may seem outrageous compared to Millennials’ required savings of one times their annual salary by 30 and three times their annual savings by 40). 

A dash of grit can go a long way. Take an active mindset approach and put yourself into a great retirement situation that meets your goals.

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