How to Bridge the Retirement Gap – Making up lost ground quickly

What is your greatest financial fear? For some people, it is outliving their retirement savings. Besides the inherent volatility of economic markets and concerns about the viability of Social Security in the future, you may not have been able to save enough to secure a comfortable retirement. As things stand now, you may be afraid you will face a retirement “gap.”

But all is not lost. First piece of advice: Don’t panic. Even if retirement is imminent, you may be able to make up lost ground quickly or take other steps to protect yourself. Next, here are several practical ideas to consider.

• Bolster your retirement savings. For example, if you participate in a 401(k) plan where you work, you can generally defer up to $18,000 to your account in 2016. This figure is increased to $24,000 for those who are age 50 or older. Just a few years of contributions at or near the maximum level can significantly bolster your account.

• Fine-tune the budget. Make realistic estimates about what you expect both your income and your expenses will be in retirement. Although you will likely be paying less for housing and other items like life insurance—especially if your children are already adults—consider the impact of potential increases in other expenditures, such as travel.

• Downsize. For most people, housing is the largest overall cost, representing on average more than one-third of overall spending. If your children have flown the coop but you’re still living in the large home where you raised them, it may be time to downsize. In addition, you might want to move to a state with a different climate, taking state income taxes into account. Of course, various other factors—such as proximity to family and personal preferences—will come into play.

• Refinance your current mortgage. If you decide to stay put, you should probably refinance an existing mortgage if the rate you’re paying is higher than current rates. Midway through 2016, mortgage rates have remained historically low. Even if rates rise slightly, which is seemingly inevitable, you may save tens of thousands of dollars over time by refinancing. Note that your interest payments will generally continue to be tax-deductible.

• Do not quit for good. Just because you have reached retirement age does not mean you have to stop working completely. If needed, you could pursue part-time employment, preferably in a line of work you enjoy. For some individuals, working full-time a little longer is also a viable option.

Every person’s situation is different. Some of these ideas may work for you, while others will not. The most important thing to do is assess your financial status and go from there.