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4 tips for catching up on retirement savings

By AJ Smith/

When it comes to retirement, it's easy to feel like you missed the boat. You didn't start saving at your first job, or maybe even your third. But there are some ways to make up for lost time. First, it's important to determine a realistic estimate of how much you need to save for your retirement. Once you have a number in your head to cover expenses and live the life you plan to in retirement, it is time to get to work. Check out the following tips for catching up on retirement savings.

1. Make use of multiple accounts

The IRS sets different guidelines about how much you can deposit into each type of retirement account every year. If you have a 401(k) plan from your employer, try to max out your contributions and consider whether a Roth or traditional IRA might be appropriate as well. If your employer offers a 401(k) match, be sure you contribute at least enough to get all of that (it's free money). If you are self-employed or have a side business, you may have additional tax-advantaged options for saving. A financial planner can help you decide which savings vehicles are most appropriate.

2. Take advantage of catch-up contributions

Depending on the retirement accounts you have, being 50 or older means you can make "catch-up" contributions. In other words, the IRS limits are higher for those who are presumably closer to retirement. It's a good idea to research these options and take advantage of the opportunity to beef up your nest egg. This holds true whether you are starting on your retirement savings or looking to boost what you've already got.

3. Get out of debt & cut costs

While simply saving more money will enhance your retirement outlook, this is easier said (or written!) than done. It's important to operate with a budget and keep close tabs on all of your debts in one place -- visualizing and focusing on small steps forward can help further your progress. To cut costs for fast cash, consider minimizing your expenses and saving on everyday bills.

4. Get a side gig

Instead of squeezing more savings out of your already tight budget, consider taking on some extra work to earn your retirement savings. Look for professional work-at-home jobs like bookkeeping, designing or freelance writing opportunities if you are not interested in the more obvious second jobs like retail or the service industry. Make the most of your nights and weekends to get more funds for your retirement.

While being behind on retirement savings isn't ideal, you do not need to be stuck in the red for your post-work years. Debt can be a major concern for soon-to-be retirees (after all, the cost of your debt over a lifetime is substantial). Research retirement advice and get to work now on maximizing your funds so you can live the retirement you have always dreamed of.

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