Breaking up, as the Neil Sedaka golden oldie from 1962 (yes, it was that long ago) has it, is hard to do. But so is catching up, especially when it comes to retirement savings. But there are ways to do it, as Abby Hayes writes in a superb usnews.com piece, “but you will have to be disciplined and make some solid financial choices. Working at least part-time in retirement could also give your finances a boost. Here are seven ways to catch up on saving as you approach retirement:
“Take advantage of catch-up options. Tax-advantaged retirement accounts have annual contribution limits. But once you hit age 50, there’s a new and higher catch-up contribution limit. In 2016, you can contribute up to $6,000 extra to your 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan. If you’re using a SIMPLE 401(k), the catch-up amount is $3,000. You can also contribute an additional $1,000 to your IRA.
“If this option is available to you and you can afford it, add the catch-up amount to your retirement accounts starting at age 50. Contributing this extra amount will get you a bigger deduction on your tax return, which could help you to boost your nest egg even more.
“Pay off high-interest debt quickly. If you are struggling to save for retirement because you’re trying to catch up on your high-interest debt, consider cutting back on your retirement savings. Put as much money as you can toward paying off your high-interest debt. As soon as it’s paid off, rededicate yourself to saving for retirement, including all those interest payments you no longer need to make.
“To decide whether paying off debt should be your first priority, compare the interest rate on your debt to the investment return you expect to earn on your retirement savings, including the value of any 401(k) match you are eligible for. However, don’t discount the psychological value of being debt-free.
“Pick up a side gig. If there’s no room in your budget to save more for retirement, consider picking up a side job. Even a few hundred dollars a month can make a huge impact on your retirement savings over a decade if you invest all of it. Consider how you can turn your current skills or hobbies into an income for a few hours a week.
“Take advantage of employer matches. Remember to claim any employer matches your company offers. Even if you’re struggling to save and pay off debt, employer matches are free money. Talk to your human resources department about the minimum amount you need to contribute to your retirement accounts in order to earn the full match. Then, make it happen.
“Downsize your home. One great way to save more for retirement, especially if you’re nearing your target retirement date, is to downsize your home. If you’re maintaining a large, expensive home, but your kids have already flown the nest, don’t wait until you actually retire to downsize. Instead, consider selling now and banking the money saved on your mortgage to use for retirement.
“Plan to work longer. You can always catch up on retirement savings by simply giving yourself more time to save. Do this by adding a few years to your target retirement date. If you’re in good health and in a field you enjoy, this could be less of a burden than you would think. Giving yourself a couple of extra years to save also means there will be fewer years of retirement to save for, which can make a huge impact on how comfortably you can live in retirement.
“Decide to work part-time in retirement. Maybe your retirement savings target is based on a completely work-free retirement. If that’s the case, consider scaling back on your expectations. Semi-retirement with a part-time job could reduce the overall amount you need to save. But remember that working during retirement can affect your Social Security benefits and plan accordingly.
“You can catch up on your retirement savings during the years leading up to retirement if you’re willing to do some serious saving. Alternatively, you could extend your career or bring in some income during retirement to reduce your savings needs. A few smart moves can make retirement work for you.”