We’ve probably all heard the golden rule of starting early in order to maximize retirement savings. But what if you’ve already reached middle age and are worried that your nest egg isn’t sufficient? If you find yourself in ‘catch-up’ mode, Jane Greenfield, CIMA®, of Vanguard Charitable has some advice about clarifying your goals, and focusing on the areas within your control that can help accelerate savings.

“Women and investing: Unique situations, practical suggestions” webcast

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Rebecca Katz: And so we have a question in, and this is from Lisa in Upper Marlboro in Maryland. And she says, “I’m 56, and I don’t think my IRA is where it should be. I’m not someone who wants to work until I die, so what should I be doing to beef up my retirement plan?” So Jane, any tips?

Jane Greenfield: I love the way she said that, she doesn’t want to work until she dies, so there’s probably a number of people viewing this webcast who would feel the same way.

Rebecca Katz: Right.

Jane Greenfield: So, yes. I would actually start, before you even think about how much you need to make up and how quickly, I would start by taking a look at what you think you want your retirement to look like. And I know that sounds so basic, but so many people skip over that step, and they go right to “what is the number?” And what your retirement looks like can vary a lot from person to person. You could say, “I want to travel the world and I want to give lots of money to my kids and charity.” Or you could say, “I don’t have the travel bug. My hobbies are pretty inexpensive, and I want to stay close to home.”

So start with that, and I would say when you talk about what you want your retirement to look like, you should talk to your partner or your spouse about it. I made that mistake. My husband Jim is 12 years older than me, and we were out to dinner one night with another couple and the topic of retirement came up. And unlike Lisa, I said, “I want to work until I drop dead. I love work. I love what I do.” I know that sounds so sad, but I do.

Rebecca Katz: Do you have a boss watching tonight?

Jane Greenfield: Oh, well, not tonight hopefully because he will make me work until I’m dead, no doubt.

But I do. I said, “I love to work, and I could absolutely see working until I’m at least 70.” And Jim looked at me and he said, “I’d be 82.” And there was a bit of a silence because I don’t think I had done that math, so I realized I should probably have talked to him one-on-one about that topic. Now we’re on the same page. He recognizes that having me at work is actually a really good use of my energy versus all channeled at him at home, so it’s all worked out.

But, needless to say, really think about what you think the picture of your retirement should be. And then once you’ve figured that out and you know how much you need for retirement—and there are great tools on vanguard.com to figure out the number—then there really are three levers to save more. The first is saving more, the second is saving longer, and the third is saving more aggressively.

So to save more, you can do what Kelly said so beautifully and just kind of make sure you save. Forego a little today for tomorrow. And once you hit age 50, you can save more tax-free or tax-deferred with catch-up contributions.

Saving longer is really just saying, “Okay, I don’t want to work until I die, but maybe if I work a few more years than I thought I wanted to or …”

Rebecca Katz: Part-time.

Jane Greenfield: … even part-time, yes. I mean, that income will help. And then saving aggressively is really looking at your asset allocation. If your asset allocation is really conservative, chances are you might want to invest a little bit more aggressively because we are living longer. So that’s my advice for Lisa.


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