You don’t have to make millions to be a 401(k) millionaire. —Christine Romans, CNN Money
It’s not all that surprising that, according to Gallup, Americans' No. 1 financial worry is whether or not they’ll be able to afford retirement.
But that doesn’t mean we should all just accept financial instability. Here’s a roundup of recent advice from experts to help you grow — or establish — your retirement reserves.
1. Plan to save more
According to Gallup, almost half of Americans plan to use their 401(k) as a large chunk of their income after they retire. But building up enough wealth to retire takes commitment.
“Contribute at least 10 to 15 percent of your salary including your employer’s contributions,” CNN Money’s chief business correspondent Christine Romans said, “(or) at least contribute enough to get the company match. It’s free money!”
And when you inevitably change jobs, Romans warns to not even consider cashing out. Instead, avoid extra fees by rolling the money over to an IRA or waiting to carry the cash over to your new employer’s 401(k) program.
“You don’t have to make millions to be a 401(k) millionaire,” Romans said.
2. Plan to miscalculate
The average retirement age is now 62, but Americans expect to retire around 66, according to a Gallup survey. That’s four years not accounted for, not to mention how expensive it is to live into your 90s.
Along with planning for these unexpected years, be sure to consult the stock market fairy before retiring. “Consider working longer if the market is down sharply at your planned retirement date,” John Waggoner wrote in a USA Today column. Even if the stock market doesn’t end up climbing back to where you want it, you’ll at least have a few more years of income to add to your nest egg.
3. Plan to get sick
According to CNN’s Christine Romans, 70 percent of Americans are going to need long-term care at some point during their retirement years. So prepare for the expense. If you don’t end up needing the extra cash, you can always spend it on collecting cute cat cutlery or something.
Even if you don’t need long-term care, chances are that your health is going to decline, and not everything is covered by insurance. Plan for health expenses and look into long-term care insurance, Joel Ohman, founder of InsuranceProviders.com, told MarketWatch.
Of course, you shouldn’t just treat your body as a dumping ground, save enough money for health emergencies and call it good. Another way to financially prepare for your future is by getting healthy, financial planner Nancy Anderson wrote in a Forbes column. “Do whatever you need to improve your health and as a result, possibly reduce your health care expenses.”
4. Plan to be selfish
In a perfect world, you would likely wish to help your kids through college; but don’t do it at the expense of your retirement, certified financial planner Wendy Weaver told MarketWatch. Your future financial security comes first.
On a more pessimistic note, Weaver also thinks that married couples should be realistic and keep some of their accounts separate (in case of divorce), while also leaving any pre-marriage investments in the original partner’s name.
5. Plan to keep investing
You may think of your retirement nest egg as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it should be more like your personal bank. Banks don’t just let money sit in their vaults to mold, and neither should you.
Robert Laura, author of “The Naked Retirement,” wrote in a column for Forbes, “Many soon-to-be retirees assume they have to shift away from stocks and into bonds at retirement age, but new retirees can make a gradual shift that takes into consideration the duration of their retirement rather than using a short-term focus.” After all, your retirement could be 30 to 40 years long.
And you don’t have to wait to withdraw your investments to benefit from them. “Portfolios of income investments like dividend stocks, CDs or bonds offer monthly or quarterly distributions that can act as a paycheck of sorts in retirement as they deliver interest payments to investors,” Jeff Reeves, author of "The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks,” told MarketWatch.