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Retirement catch up: Saving after 50

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

Growing up as the daughter of famous investor Charles Schwab, Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz always made saving a priority. But it wasn’t until her 40s that she got intentional about her retirement savings.

Despite her financial pedigree, it didn’t preclude her from seeking professional help from an investment advisor. “Even the experts hire experts. It takes out the emotions, it makes you show up, learn and have better outcomes,” she told Yahoo Finance.

When she turned 50, Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation, became even more driven to provide a reality check for her peers. “For anyone who is turning 50, we want to have a sense of control in our lives, but with the lack of savings in our country, so many baby boomers are ill-prepared,” she said. In fact, more than a third of people 55 and older have saved less than $10,000 for retirement, according to a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
In her book, The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty, Schwab-Pomerantz says it’s never too late to start taking charge of your financial future.

Here are a few of her rules of thumb to help you catch up after age 50:

Make savings non-negotiable

People who aren’t really taking their savings seriously, unfortunately, are going to move themselves into this area of poverty. For someone who hasn’t been saving, take a real hard look at where their money is going and make savings automatic, non-negotiable.

If you make savings a high priority, there’s a lot of opportunity to make a difference. Let me give you a financial example: If a 50-year-old was to take advantage of the 401(k) and save $23,000 for the next 15 years until they’re 65, at a 6% rate of return that money can grow to [about] $570,000. Also take a look at credit card debt because the interest that you’re paying could easily be going to savings.

The 25 Times Rule

You will need 25 times the amount you’ll need to withdraw from your savings to supplement retirement or any other reliable income. So, for instance, if you need $40,000 per year of supplemental income, you will need a million dollars saved at the time of retirement.

The Minus 10 Rule

If you start saving in your 20s, you can save up to 10% and you should have a relatively comfortable retirement. However if you wait until your 30s, you’re going to have to save at least 20%. And then your 40s [save] 30%, and 50s of course 40%. That sounds like a lot of money, but in this country two-thirds of Americans use Social Security as their primary source of income. For a third of Americans, it’s their only source of income. And, unfortunately, the average amount of Social Security is approximately $15,000 [a year].

Are there things that you can cut out? For instance, even life insurance. For a lot of people it’s a waste of money -- they don’t have dependents or a small business. Really look at where you can cut money -- is it cable television? Do you need that car?

Saving for your health

Keep in mind we're living longer. In our early retirement days we are going to be active and that’s where our money is going to go. But in our later years, a lot of our money is going to go to health care. A lot of people don’t really think about health care costs and embedding that into their savings.

If you have access to a health savings account consider saving bits in it and let it grow over the years so that when you do retire, you have that nest egg for health care.

A lot of people assume that Medicare is paid for and all their medical expenses are going to be paid for, but actually the premium is deducted from your Social Security benefit so Medicare only covers about 60% of your health care costs, so it's really important to embed health care in your whole retirement savings plan.

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