Get Retirement Savings Back on Track

According to research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 27% of U.S. workers have taken some form of loan, early withdrawal or hardship distribution from an IRA, 401(k) or similar plan.

But if you’re now looking at your retirement balances and realizing that it’s not enough, it’s time to do some serious heavy lifting to get yourself back on track.

With that in mind, consider making one or more of the following part of your New Year’s resolution to help rebuild your retirement nest egg:

1. Save more aggressively

To turbo-charge your retirement assets, begin by ramping up your savings, starting with your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or a 403(b) plan.

The maximum employee 401(k) contribution gets bumped up to $18,500 in 2018. Plus, if you’re age 50 or older, you can make an extra $6,000 “catch up” contribution into your 401(k). So for 2018, older workers can stash away a total of $24,500.

Contributing to your workplace retirement plan can also generate matching contributions your employer — a perk that helps you more quickly rebuild retirement savings.

2. Downsize your housing

According to 2017 report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, one-third of all Americans — nearly 39 million U.S. households — can’t afford their housing, including 19 million households that pay 50% or more of their income to put a roof over their heads.

A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 30% of your income on a mortgage or rent.

So another way to free up cash for retirement savings is to lower your housing costs. For homeowners, downsizing to a smaller property can reduce your mortgage, slash your property taxes and cut your utility costs too, since bigger residences typically cost more to cool and heat.

3. Relocate to a cheaper location

Living in major U.S. cities or on the United States' East or West Coasts is generally far more expensive than living in, say, the South or the Midwest.

If you’re in a high-cost area, consider relocating to a cheaper location.

4. Work longer

It may not seem ideal, but working longer has two huge benefits: it gives you more time to amass a retirement nest egg, and it boosts your Social Security benefits.

Although you can currently receive Social Security at age 62, for every year you delay taking Social Security up to age 70, your benefits increase annually by 8%. So working longer can greatly augment your retirement security.

5. Say no more often

If you’ve been sacrificing your own retirement savings because you’re supporting family members with cash or “loans,” it’s time to end that cycle. Women especially tend to take care of themselves last. They’ll save for their child’s education before they save for their retirement.

Changing these habits may require a mind shift. But when you’re playing catch-up with your retirement savings, you have to put yourself first — once and for all.