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Gen X Sisters, Here are 10 Ways We Can Boost Our Retirement Savings

Are you in your 40s or 50s? A new survey found that many of us need to stack a lot more dough. Thankfully, we have the power and resources to create a comfortable future.

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illustration of woman counting money, retirement, savings
Islenia Mil
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If you’re a GenXer like me, a few things are probably true for you.

You had to go home as a kid when the streetlights came on.

You danced hard to classic R&B or hip-hop – and you still know all the lyrics to Rapper’s Delight.

But now, in your 40s or 50s, you’re less worried about remembering how to do the Electric Slide – and more concerned about whether you’ll have enough money for retirement.

With kids, elderly parents, layoffs, and other financial challenges over the years, saving funds for the future hasn’t always been possible.

Then there’s the fact that most of us are underpaid. Since Black women typically earn just 67 cents for every dollar a White man makes, according to the National Women’s Law Center, it’s no wonder we find it harder to build retirement savings.

A startling new study really drives this point home.

A 2023 report from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) focuses specifically on Generation X, folks born between the years 1965 and 1980.

The report found that most GenXers – regardless of race, gender, or marital status – lack adequate retirement savings. The savings gap is especially pronounced among Black GenXers.

According to NIRS data, the average retirement account balance for Black GenXers is $53,456 and the median amount saved is a paltry $1. (Median savings tell us that half of the individuals have savings above that $1 figure and half of those surveyed have savings below that number – so 50% of Black GenXers have nothing saved for retirement).

Despite this shortfall, you don’t have to despair, sis.

We’re accustomed to overcoming obstacles and beating the odds. Throughout history, Black women have persevered in the face of discrimination, injustice, and economic hardship.

We’ve achieved great things through faith, fortitude, and financial savvy. So we have an opportunity to tap into that same determination and resilience, and better plan for our golden years.

It’s not too late to take steps now to increase your retirement savings and enhance your financial security. Here are 10 practical tips to help you catch up.

Tip 1. Tally Your Totals

First, get clear on what resources you already have for retirement. Request your Social Security statement (available online at SSA.gov) to see what benefits you can expect based on your earnings history. Check your 401(k), IRA, and any other investment balances. If you have a pension from an old job, find out what monthly payment you can anticipate. This will give you a baseline to work from.

Tip 2. Stay Informed about Good Retirement News

There’s a very positive development if you feel behind on your savings: Laws are changing that may open up new retirement savings opportunities.

For example, under the SECURE Act, employers soon have to allow certain part-time workers to participate in company retirement plans. Also, starting in 2027, lower-wage earners may get a “Saver's Match” deposited directly into their accounts. Stay in the know.

Tip 3. Shift Your Mindset

Retirement may still seem far off, but time passes quickly. You must start thinking now about your 60s, 70s and beyond. Picture your dream retirement – maybe launching that small business, writing that book, traveling more. Let your vision motivate you to act today. As some of our Grandmas used to say, “You gotta see the finish line if you wanna win the race!”

Tip 4. Cut Expenses Where You Can

Your money may be tight, especially if you’re single or you live in a high-cost area. But sit down and look closely at where your dollars are going. Do a bit more meal prep instead of eating out as often. Cut back on Uber Eats and DoorDash to prioritize your future self. Drop unused subscriptions and memberships. Go on a “no shopping challenge” for a set time period. Small changes add up. Use the extra funds to increase automatic transfers into a retirement account.

Tip 5. Earn Extra Money

Take on occasional freelance gigs leveraging your skills from your 9 to 5. Sell handmade crafts or clothing online. Rent out a room on Airbnb. Babysit for family members. Pick up seasonal retail work. Ask if you can do overtime at your regular job. Even an extra $250 a month invested over 10 to 15 years makes a difference.

Invested at a 10% rate -- which is the historical annual average in the stock market -- your $250 a month will grow to $50,614 at the end of a decade, and reach $100,655 after 15 years.

Tip 6. Contribute to an IRA

Open a Traditional or Roth IRA if you don’t have a workplace retirement plan. The contribution limits for 2023 are $6,500 if you’re under 50 or $7,500 if you’re 50 or older. Choose low-cost index funds to keep your investment fees down. Set up automatic monthly contributions so the money comes right out of your checking account into the IRA; that way you never even miss it!

Tip 7. Utilize Catch-Up Contributions

Starting the year you turn 50, you can make extra “catch-up” contributions to your workplace retirement account and IRA above the normal limits. That means you can contribute up to $30,000 to a 401(k) for 2023 instead of the regular $22,500 limit. Every extra bit saved now will compound over the coming years.

Tip 8. Shift Asset Allocation

Review the investment mix in your retirement accounts. As you get closer to retirement age, it’s wise to shift more assets from stocks into less volatile fixed-income investments like bonds. This helps reduce your risk of large losses right before withdrawal. But don’t get too conservative too soon: you still need stock market growth. After all, you could live to age 90 or longer, depending on your health and family longevity.

Tip 9. Work Longer If Possible

While not always an option, delaying retirement helps in two big ways: more years to keep earning and saving, and fewer years depending on your savings in retirement. Consider staying on part-time at your current job or taking a lower-stress position somewhere else you may enjoy. Those extra annual contributions and delayed Social Security checks add up.

Don’t forget to practice good health habits too – such as eating well, exercising moderately, and getting your sleep. The healthier you are, the better equipped you’ll be to continue working.

Tip 10. Seek Professional Guidance

Get recommendations from a fee-only financial planner to ensure you are making the right moves. Or see if your employer offers free financial wellness counseling as part of their benefits package. You don’t have to figure this out alone. Lean on experts to guide you.

Bottom line: it’s not too late! With some practical steps and shifts, you can increase your retirement savings and create the future security you deserve.

Our parents and grandparents made a way out of no way. We can too!

Discover how you can create a personalized action plan tailored to your current situation and long-term goals. Use these free Pretirement resources to get started and stay on track.

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