First Person: Saving My Retirement for My Future Self

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I learned what it meant to scrimp and save during the Great Recession, but now I'm worried that scenario will be repeated in my retirement years. I'm afraid my future self will have to go back to eating Ramen noodles and dining on the early-bird specials if my financial habits don't change. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, at least 50 percent of Americans may experience a decline in their standard of living in retirement. A study by the Boston College Center for Retirement Research found the bull stock market and housing recovery has done very little to rescue the fate of our retirements. Experts say most middle-class people aren't heavily invested in stocks, which means they aren't benefiting from the higher stock values. I'm not willing to spend the next 20 years living like a pauper so I'm finding easy ways to brighten my retirement outlook before it's too late.

Doing my future self a favor

I know I am not going to want to live in a studio apartment when I'm retired so I am doing my future self a favor by paying down my mortgage. I won't have to scrimp in retirement since I'll be free of a mortgage payment. I won't have to lower my standard of living since I'm content retiring in the home in which we raised our children. I refinanced my home to a lower interest rate of 2.75 percent and a shorter term of 15 years so I could be out of debt by the time I'm 55.

Keeping my hand off the trigger

I don't trust the stock market, but I know I have to stay invested until the warning bells sound. According to the Wall Street Journal article, some experts have wondered whether the millions of baby boomers in retirement will lead to a stock market crash. While some argue the investing is now a global game, I am still cautious about stocks. I set up stop losses in my retirement accounts after building up profitable positions. I will lock in gains while preventing sudden losses in my portfolio.

Asking adult children to help

For years, my husband and I put our children's college education and other financial needs ahead of our own. Now that our children are 19 and 20, they have offered to help pay some of the bills. As our older son pays for his own car insurance and our younger son saves for his college tuition bill in the fall, my husband and I are able to set aside more for retirement. We are using a Roth IRA account since it doubles as a retirement and emergency savings fund.

With only half the money that some retirement calculators have told me I need to have saved for retirement at my age, I could panic. I don't expect my standard of living will change in retirement because I'm just as concerned about my future self in retirement as I am about myself as a person in her 40s. I'm thinking ahead by paying off my home, going long on stocks but guarding against crashes. Since we never got caught up the trappings of materialism, we won't need a million to maintain our lifestyle, although a half million would help.

More from this contributor:

What We Gave up to Buy Our Dream Home

Predicting the Future Value of my Nest Egg

Inflation Calculators Show Me I'm Losing Big


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