Behind on Retirement Savings? Ways to Catch Up

Falling Behind? How to Get Back on the Retirement Path

So, you’re feeling behind on saving for retirement. Maybe you lost a job, or had health or family problems, or simply didn’t think much about it till now. What can you do at this point? The good news is, you can do a lot. Whether you’re in your 40s, 50s or even 60s, there are things you can do to catch up on your savings and get closer to the retirement you want.

Plan Your Lifestyle

Here are some basic items to consider as you plan:

  • The number of years you'll be living in retirement
  • Where you’ll be living
  • If you'll be single or living with a partner
  • If you'll have adequate health care coverage
  • If you'll still owe money on your mortgage or for children’s educations

Also consider what you hope to do with your time:

  • Travel?
  • Spend time with family and friends?
  • Volunteer?
  • Start a new business or career path?
  • Continue working part time?
  • Just relax?

While you can’t be sure what the future holds, your health, family history and current financial situation allow you to make a reasonable forecast of what your basic income needs will be. Most people will need between 70% to 100% of their pre-retirement income in order to live comfortably during retirement. The income you need will be higher if you are carrying debt or if you plan to travel or start a new business. It may be lower if you are debt-free and remain in good health. Scottrade’s retirement calculator can help you figure out how your expected annual expenses in retirement could affect your savings goal.

Consider Your Assets

Take time to think about your assets, both those you have now and those you expect to have during retirement.

  • What is your current income? How much could you save from that? Could you make the process automatic by using paycheck deductions or another regularly-scheduled process?
  • What do you expect to receive in pensions or Social Security? Visit to see your projected benefit amount based on your earnings history.
  • Do you have any investments? If so, how much do you have, and in what? Could you change your portfolio allocation to increase returns or lower your risk? A professional can give you advice tailored for your situation. Scottrade can also help you assess your current investments with a Portfolio Review.
  • How much money do you have right now in cash, checking accounts, savings accounts or CDs? Could any of that be moved into higher-performing investments?
  • Finally, do you have any physical assets you could do without, such as a boat, expensive jewelry or a house that’s too large for you? Look into selling them and investing the proceeds.

Find Ways to Cut Expenses

Now that you have a handle on your income, see how you could cut your expenses.

  • If you’ve never had a budget, now’s the time to start. Getting your finances under control will benefit you now and in retirement.
  • Pay off debt. Start with the debt that is costing you the most in interest charges. A financial professional can help you plan a strategy.
  • Avoid taking on new debt. For instance, could you keep driving your current car longer? If you are supporting adult children, work together to help them take steps toward financial independence.
  • Do what you can to stay healthy. Medical costs typically are a major expense in retirement. (Consider contributing to a tax-advantaged health savings account, if you’re eligible.) Eat right and get your sleep and exercise.
  • Cut back on expensive lifestyle choices. For example, you might cook at home more often instead of eating out or reduce your daily coffee purchases. Use that money to increase contributions to your retirement savings. Even small amounts can have a big impact over time.
  • Rethink your retirement goals to find ways to reduce expenses. For example, you may cut back the number of trips you plan to take or explore places closer to home. You might even consider downsizing, especially if you plan to “snowbird” at a second home.

Find Ways to Add Income

So you’ve done the math and you’re still coming up short. How can you add income to meet your retirement savings goal?

  • If your employer offers to match your contributions to a 401(k), take advantage of it. This is free money. Contribute as much as you can to get the maximum match.
  • Take advantage of windfalls—save any pay raises, income tax refunds, or inheritance money that come your way.
  • Use your age to your advantage. If you’re age 50 or older, you may be eligible to make additional catch-up contributions in retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs.
  • Consider taking a second job now and investing that income. Not everyone can do this, but if you can, it can help your retirement nest egg. Many people fit freelance work or part-time positions around their primary jobs.
  • In retirement, plan to work longer if possible. Delaying your retirement can make a huge difference in your finances. Keep in mind that your own health or family issues may make this impossible, so don’t rely on it as your only strategy.
  • Understand your options and create a plan for claiming Social Security benefits. If you’re able to delay until age 70, you can greatly increase your monthly Social Security income. Visit the Social Security website to learn more.
  • Talk to a professional about how to invest the money you are saving. Visit to find tools and information, get professional guidance from Scottrade Investment Management, or use a combination of both that works for you. 

Get Started Now

Now that you’ve come up with a plan, get started immediately. Check out our investment calculator to see just how much you gain in potential retirement funds if you start saving more now rather than later.

“Plenty of people get a late start to retirement saving,” said Joe Correnti, senior vice president of brokerage product at Scottrade. “The important thing is to get started sooner to give yourself enough time to create and implement a plan that can help you reach financial security.”

Next Step: If you’re looking for a retirement savings strategy check out our Retirement page.

All investing involves risk. The value of your investment may fluctuate over time, and you may gain or lose money.

The content provided is for informational and/or educational purposes only. The information presented or discussed is not, and should not be considered, a recommendation or an offer of, or solicitation of an offer by, Scottrade or its affiliates to buy, sell or hold any security or other financial product, or an endorsement or affirmation of any specific investment strategy. You are fully responsible for your investment decisions. Your choice to engage in a particular investment or investment strategy should be based solely on your own research and evaluation of the risks involved, your financial circumstances, and your investment objectives. Scottrade, Inc. and its affiliates are not offering or providing, and will not offer or provide, any advice, opinion or recommendation of the suitability, value or profitability of any particular investment or investment strategy.

Scottrade does not provide tax advice and the information contained herein is not meant as a replacement for professional advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor for questions concerning your personal tax or financial situation.