Is it ever too early to start planning (and saving) for retirement?
The short answer is no. According to CNN Money, people who begin saving at age 25 are far more likely to reach their retirement goals than those who begin just a decade later, at age 35—and with far less effort.
If you count yourself as a member of Generation X, you’ve already passed both those milestones. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to begin saving for retirement—or, if you’ve begun saving intermittently or halfheartedly, to pick up your efforts.
Focus your efforts with these five straightforward tips.
1. Just. Get. Started.
It’s time to start saving for retirement. Today.
As retirement planning professionals point out, retirement investors who begin investing early and consistently throughout their working lives are more likely to reach their financial goals by age 65 (or whenever they choose to retire). If you haven’t already done so, speak with a licensed financial adviser about your options—and get going!
2. Maximize Your Retirement Contributions
Tax-advantaged retirement accounts, such as employer-sponsored 401(k)s and individual IRAs, are crucial vehicles for any retirement investor. You should invest as much as you can afford in these accounts, up to the maximum tax-deductible amount allowable by law.
Remember, you can have multiple tax-advantaged accounts. A 401(k) from your employer (which may include an employer contribution or match) and an individual IRA (Roth or traditional) for your personal retirement investments are the two most common account types.
3. Take Advantage of Catch-up Contributions
Generation X’s leading edge has already crossed the big 5-0. That entitles them to one of the most lucrative retirement strategies around: the vaunted catch-up contribution. Catch-up limits can change by year, so check with the IRS for the latest figures.
4. Grab a Gig or Two To Supplement Your Income
Gen Xers are famously free-spirited—a key characteristic for anyone looking to embrace the power of the sharing (gig) economy.
If you’re worried that your 9-to-5 isn’t sufficient to keep your retirement plan on track, consider supplementing your income with flexible work: driving for a ride-hailing app, renting out your spare bedroom on short-term rental platforms, completing household tasks for one of the many domestic-help apps out there. It might not be the most stimulating work in the world, but it can definitely provide financial breathing room.
5. Pay Down High-Interest Debt
College tuition was a whole lot cheaper back in the 1980s and ’90s, during most Gen Xers’ undergrad years. As a whole, the generation wasn’t as profoundly affected by the still-growing student debt crisis as its successor generation, the millennials.
That’s not to say Gen Xers have no debts to speak of. Those who’ve dealt with unexpected medical expenses or struggled to manage credit cards know the corrosive power of high-interest debt.
If you’re in that boat, you need to focus your short-term financial firepower on paying down those debts—especially credit cards. Once your debt load is under control, you’ll find it easier to invest for the long haul.
It’s Never Too Early—Or Too Late
It’s never too early to begin saving for retirement. But it’s also never too late. If you’re not as close to your retirement savings target as you’d like, don’t be shy about reaching out to a licensed financial adviser for guidance that accounts for your unique situation.