Why You Feel That Way
You're over 40, and you haven't started saving—seriously saving—for retirement, or you haven't started facing up to your other money issues. Let's just acknowledge upfront that this is not a great situation to find yourself in. But you know what? You are not alone. Not in the least. In fact, 75 percent of female baby boomers are not prepared for retirement.
Women will have substantially less money to live on than men. And, on average, we will live four years longer. Unless something changes, too many of our gooses are cooked.
And we know it. That's why so many of us get back into bed and pull the financial covers over our heads. It's a strange mentality, but it's common enough: The less you've saved in the past, the less likely you are to start saving now. Every time you think about starting, the thought of all the time and opportunity lost are overwhelming. "You'll never catch up," you say to yourself, "so why start now?"
How to Get Over It
You can catch up, and you can win. But a number of things will have to change if you're going to do it: Your savings habits will have to change. So will your investing, spending and other habits that are preventing the wealth and life you could build. But before attempting these changes, you have to change something even more important—you have to change your mind.
You can have a do-over starting today. But you have to get over the feeling that it's too late to save for retirement. That attitude is simply not acceptable. Why? Because your future—and by future I mean being able to afford the things you want for you and your family after age 65—is far too important to simply throw in the towel.
And the truth is, it's not too late. True, by starting late you've lost the advantage of years of compounding. You simply won't have 30 or 40 years to watch your nest egg grow, as 20-something savers will. But older savers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic, anyway. Today, baby boomers are reinventing the whole notion of retirement—the majority say they expect to keep working and earning during their later years. And why shouldn't they? They've already got decades of experience behind them and plenty of confidence to continue advancing.
What else is on your side? If you're in your late 40s or 50s, your kids are likely teens, which gives you a big burst of time that can be used bringing in extra cash. Your house is likely paid off, or very close to it, and you're seasoned enough to handle what life throws at you. An age-appropriate, well-balanced portfolio will be your modus operandi. And you'll have the wisdom to protect your hard-earned cash from the next market turndown.
What else can you do quickly, cheaply and easily?
- Max out your 401(k). I am a huge believer that everyone should max out 401(k) contributions if humanly possible. I can't stress it enough, though, with late starters.
- Use more generous IRAs. You can make larger contributions to both traditional and Roth IRAs. If you're older than 50, you can put more money into an IRA than the rest of the population.
- Use as many of these accounts as you can—combined. As you start socking away as much as possible, you may find that you're able to do more than satisfy the maximums of one particular account.
Next: "I don't want to think about it."