Okay, let's face it. You haven't saved enough to retire yet, and you know it. And the clock is ticking if you ever want to have your feet in the sand, watching that beautiful sunset, and still be able to run fast enough to beat the water when the waves come crashing in. That's right; you're over 50 and underfunded.
But, not all is lost. There's still time. You need to get focused, though. It's possible to fund a decent retirement in a reasonably small amount of time, but it'll take work and willpower. If you're ready to do this and reap the benefits of the hard work required, it's time to dive in.
This might be difficult at first, but it can get easier. You need to prioritize saving -- that means above everything except necessary living expenses and debt repayment. Make savings a regular bill, something you pay no matter what. You can set it up as an automatic payment in most cases. Consider a Roth IRA . Even though you might be getting a bit of a late start, a Roth can still be an excellent choice. And, since the earnings from a Roth are tax-free if you follow the rules, you can get a bigger bang for your buck later if you shelter savings in a Roth. Make too much? Consider a back-door Roth instead. Try to contribute the maximum, $6,500 if you're 50 or older. But, whatever you do, make saving money a high priority.
Have an aggressive money-making investment mindset
In the past, you may have been satisfied with a less-than-stellar return on your investments. Maybe you were OK with the interest paid on that bank CD, even the 5% return on the bond fund in which you have some of your money. However, you need to have a much more aggressive money-making mindset.
Consider the S&P 500 as a potential yardstick. This benchmarking index for stocks started in 1923. It started small but reached the current inclusion of 500 stocks in 1957. It's the gold standard for stock performance comparison. Since inception, the average return for the S&P 500, as a whole, has been near 10%. And, the operative word here is "average." At this point, you're not looking for average -- you need above average. And, with the current (but aging) bull market, you may be able to find returns better than that. But, don't go overboard here. It's important to manage your risk when you're seeking higher yields. Do your homework, and look for significant gains over the long haul. Consider these mutual funds and their recent performance numbers:
Virtus KAR Small-Cap (NASDAQMUTFUND: PSGAX)
Fidelity Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQMUTFUND: FNCMX)
Wasatch Ultra Growth (NASDAQMUTFUND: WAMCX)
William Blair Small Cap Growth - (NASDAQMUTFUND: WBSNX)
DATA SOURCE: FIDELITY
These funds all have a 5-star rating from Morningstar and have returns over 10%, even over ten years. Consider funds with performance like these. Their risk may be a bit lower since mutual funds, by definition, tend to own large and diversified holdings across a spectrum of companies. Plus, they're professionally managed. Be sure to look at the fees, but it's the overall return that's important. With funds like these, the returns could help you meet your savings goal sooner.
Reset your lifestyle
Albert Einstein is one (of several) who's been credited with the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." You don't have to be a genius to realize that if you're expecting to reach your retirement goals quickly, it's going to mean doing things differently. But, maybe not as drastically as you think. Reset your expectations for a while. Find some things that cost less to do. I'll give you a personal example. When I decided to start my own business, my husband told me he didn't think I could cut spending that much. However, cutting our Friday night dinner out from every week to every two weeks made quite a difference. Plus, we found other things to do that ended up being just as fun. We even had a monthly contest to see who could cook the best dinner on those off Fridays. The trick was, it was on a $20 budget. I won't say who won most of the time (he did), but it was a great experience. And, we're both better cooks now. Plus, that one move alone saved several thousand dollars over the course of a year.
Spend your free time making money, not spending money
Here's another way to leverage your time. Spend it making money and not spending money. If you find that you spend more money when you have time on your hands (and most people do), then stop having time on your hands. Use that time to make money. You have the same amount of time available; make the most of it by increasing your net worth, not decreasing it.
And, try to make this money-earning venture something you enjoy. After all, it's your time that you're spending. These days, numerous people make extra money driving for Uber or Lyft. Many drivers love conversing with their riders as they chauffeur them toward the destination. Or, you could consider something a little different. Are you an exceptional cook? Do you love throwing dinner parties? You could sign up with EatWith , a site dedicated to matching up people and events. They work with folks who want to host an experience in their home. They help match hosts with individuals who want to meet other people plus have a nice dinner. There is a pre-approval process. But, as a host, you'll plan an event, including the meal, beverages, and the price to attend. Then, you post the details to the site. EatWith will approve the event and take a commission for handling the details.
Want something a little more traditional? You could take a skill you have and use it as a freelancer. Sites like Upwork help connect freelancers to people and businesses that need the skills.
It's possible to increase your retirement savings so you can actually have a comfortable retirement. It'll take work and stamina, but it'll also be worth it. Being over 50 and underfunded is not a fun place -- but feet in the sand, watching a beautiful sunset, and not worrying about money? That sounds like a pretty great place to be.
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.