Who says you’re too old to win at investing and saving?


In your 50s, and even older, you might find yourself thinking of retirement with a mixture of excitement and dread.

A new chapter’s coming — but not so deep down, you know you don’t have enough saved.

Even if it’s a mix of work and leisure, most of us expect a little loosening up on the pressures of working. And starting in your 40s and 50s, it’s natural to start planning and wondering what retirement will look like.

A serious illness, not being prepared for a big stock market downturn or a sudden job loss can quickly jettison dreams of a sunny retirement.

But don’t give up hope.

If you didn’t start saving, start now. If you weren’t saving enough, try some strategies to shore up your finances.

You’ve got this

Sally Toro, 56, grew up poor. “I was never taught about saving or preparing for the future,” she said.

Through her 20s and 30s, Toro, who lives in Pompano Beach, Florida, saved nothing. When Toro was 39, Bea Martin, a co-worker at their financial company, asked if she was using the company’s 401(k) plan. No, Toro told Martin. Between supporting her two daughters as a single mother and a salary of about $42,000, she simply could not afford to give up 1 cent.

“Do you know you are losing money by not putting in the minimum?” Martin asked. That got Toro’s attention. Martin urged her to give it a shot, telling Toro she could always stop saving.

Toro started putting 2% of each paycheck aside. “I was terrified I wouldn’t have $20 more on that paycheck,” she said. But she remembered what Martin said: that in a year’s time, she would build up a cash reserve.

In a year, she accumulated about $4,000 and felt rich. “But I didn’t have the guts to continue increasing,” she said. Only when she moved on to another company did she begin slowly upping the percentage.

For the last eight years, Toro has actually been maxing out at $18,000 and even putting in the catch-up contributions allowed for those age 50 and over.

A year ago, she began working with a financial advisor. Between her 401(k) and two individual retirement accounts, she has close to $300,000 and hopes to retire at 62.

Whether it’s your upbringing or lack of confidence, you need to take the risk of putting away even 2%, according to Toro. “Be bold and try to save for yourself. It is your future.”

Generational headwinds

People in their 50s and 60s may not have been able to use some common retirement strategies when they were starting out in the work world. Barbara Delaney, principal at Stone Street Advisor Group, remembers when workplaces simply didn’t have retirement savings options.

A former employee with EF Hutton, Delaney says the brokerage firm began offering a 401(k) in 1987. Before that, the company had a pension plan with a 10-year vesting schedule. When another company took over and closed her department, Delaney lost out on a future pension as well as eight years of retirement saving.

A top strategy for those getting a late start is to save as much as you can and push back your retirement age. “Money is money,” Delaney said. “If you’ve lost those years, you’re going to have to plan on working a little longer.”

It’s a hard conversation she has with many of her clients.

People commonly overlook the fact that Social Security is a good income replacement for those who make less than $60,000. To that end, Delaney recommends claiming Social Security as late as possible. “People take it at 62 because they think they’re going to die early,” she said.

Delaney helps people find ways to bridge the gap between the end of a paying career and the start of Social Security benefits, such as dipping into a 401(k) or accumulated savings.

Relocating to a cheaper area to save on monthly expenses, such as property taxes, is another way to cut spending. “The fixed costs of living in New York are triple what you might pay in Delaware or South Carolina,” she said.

A Roth IRA can be a boon for reducing someone’s taxable income. “If we can have an older person start a Roth and take distributions to bridge the gap, it comes out tax-free,” Delaney said. If someone can get to zero taxable income, they will then save on Medicare premiums because it is means-tested.

“Health care is costing us a lot,” she said, especially in retirement and especially if someone has a chronic illness.