What to do if you haven't saved for retirement by age 50

The Treasury Secretary explains MyRA: A 'starter' retirement account
The Treasury Secretary explains MyRA: A 'starter' retirement account

Those of you who are aged 50 or older have probably been working for a few decades, and you may be thinking about what comes next. Most of us dream of eventually leaving the workforce for good -- but what if you haven't even started saving for retirement yet?

First off, know you're not alone. In fact, a recent GOBankingrates.com survey found that 28% of people over age 55 have no retirement savings at all, while 26% report that they have under $50,000 saved for retirement.

But with retirement fast approaching, there are still some moves you can make to get closer to achieving financial independence. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Work longer

If you're in your 50s and still haven't put anything away for your golden years, you should consider working until at least your Social Security full retirement age -- the age at which you can receive the full Social Security benefit you're entitled to based on your work history. The later you retire, the longer you can live on earned income and build up your savings, rather than drawing those savings down in order to get by.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, you'll need to turbocharge your savings. Generally, a savings rate of 15% of gross annual salary is recommended for people who have decades to prepare for retirement. But if you're in your 50s and haven't really been saving, then you need to dig as deep as possible. Ideally, you'll save 30% or more of your salary in order to get your savings on track to meet your needs in retirement.

If you're unable to save that much, then try to start at 15% and look for ways to make small increases over time. For example, every time you get a raise, put it directly toward your savings contributions.

Take advantage of catch-up contributions

Now that you know how much you should be saving, let's address where you should be saving. Tax-sheltered retirement accounts can offer you current and future tax benefits. If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k) or 403(b), you can contribute up to $18,000 this year, plus a $6,000 catch-up contribution if you're aged 50 or older, for a total of $24,000. If you can max out your retirement account and possibly earn an employer match, then you'll make up for some lost time.

If you don't have a workplace retirement plan, then you can save up to $5,500 per year, plus an additional $1,000 if you're aged 50 or over, in an IRA. If you're in a position to do so, make sure you reach to get these catch-up contributions in order to bridge the gap between what you have and what you need in savings. In fact, saving the full $6,500 for the next 15 years in an account earning 5% would yield a nest egg of about $150,000.

Look to sources of guaranteed income

Social Security was never intended to be your only source of retirement income -- or even the primary source. But if you haven't amassed sufficient personal savings, then you will need to run the numbers to determine how you can maximize your Social Security benefit in order to help you make ends meet in retirement.

Go to the Social Security Administration's website, set up an account, and take a look at your expected Social Security benefit. Consider how much your check will continue to increase each year you delay filing for benefits. For each year you delay filing, your Social Security check will increase by about 8% until age 70, when your benefits will max out.

Meanwhile, if you reach retirement with a smaller nest egg, you might consider annuitizing a portion of your savings to provide a guaranteed stream of income. To learn more about how you can achieve this, see this article.

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If you're 50 or older and nowhere close to being retirement-ready, then you need to start thinking seriously about how to build the savings you'll need to have a happy and secure retirement -- and you may ultimately need to adjust your idea of what your retirement will look like. While this may be your last chance to move the needle in the right direction, the good news is that if you commit to changing your situation, there is still time to make some progress toward retiring in comfort.

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