How do you finally get started saving?

Nearly Retired Without Any Savings

by Gary Foreman

Related Articles

When Your Retirement Savings Do Not Equal Your Retirement Goals

Almost Retired Planning

Retirement and Your 401k

Determine the Best Retirement Age for You

I am 50 with no savings!! How can I start? Need any and all advice.

Dinah sure has a lot of company. Congressional research shows that only 40% of workers have a plan in place for retirement. Even among those over age 55, only 47% had retirement accounts. And the median value of the account was less than $25,000. So a lot of people need to begin saving for retirement.

The first step for Dinah is to try to get an idea of how much money she'll need. If she's among the two thirds of Americans who expect to continue in her current lifestyle after retirement, she can expect to need about 80% of her preretirement income. That's a surprise to many people.

Where will she find that much money? Dinah should begin by finding out about any existing plans she may have through past or present employers. Even if she doesn't have any private company pension, she'll be eligible for social security. To find out how much she'll receive, she can use this tool that will help her determine at what age she can receive her maximum Socail Security benefit.

Will you leave
thousands of dollars on the table
by taking Social Security
at the wrong time? Find out.

Once Dinah has some idea of how much income she'll need and what's already available she can calculate how much additional she'll need to provide. For illustration, let's assume that she'll need an extra $10,000 in income each year.

How much will she need to save to get that income? We could go through a lot of discussion and complicated formulas. Whole books have been written on just this subject. But for our purposes, I'd assume that Dinah should be able to safely get about 7% in income from her savings each year. That's a realistic, conservative long-term rate.

To find out how much savings will be required to generate the income, just divide the income desired ($10,000) by the rate of return (7% or 0.07). In this case Dinah would need about $143,000 to produce $10,000 in income each year after retirement if it earned 7%.

So how does Dinah begin to save that much money? Much of what she'll need to do is the same as if she were beginning any saving program.

Begin by setting some goals for her savings. Can Dinah manage to save $5 each week? Begin with something simple. She might not know where to find an extra $5. She'll need to take a look at her habits and see what she can change that will make $5 available each week. It will almost certainly require her to change some habits.

Start today. Even if she can only save 50 cents this week, that's better than nothing. And if she does the same or better next week a new habit will be starting. Sure, more is better. But actually saving 50 cents is better than complaining that you can't save $5.

Once Dinah begins to save some money she'll need to decide where to keep it. Here the goals are safety and growth.

Get the interest your deserve!
Compare savings account rates with our best rate finder.

Begin with a separate saving account. Once Dinah has put money into the account it should stay there unless she's moving it to an investment account that's earmarked for her retirement.

After she has accumlated some money in the savings account she should periodically move some of it to a no-load, growth mutual fund. There are a number of excellent ones available. Historically a fund of this type will earn nearly 10% per year over the long haul.

Dinah should contribute to a tax deferred retirement plan. If she is eligible for a 401k plan she should sign up. Also begin contributing to an IRA. Her money will grow much faster if she doesn't have to pay taxes on the earnings each year.

Dinah should learn some of the investment basics. Your potential risks and rewards differ with various investment choices. Learn the differences and which would work best for you. It's really not that complicated. The important investment concepts are easy enough to understand. There are local adult ed classes, online courses and even books that can explain the basics.

Dinah is smart to get started now. Yes, earlier would have been better. She might have started too late to guarantee a comfortable retirement. But she can still make a significant difference in her future standard of living.

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

Take the Next Step:

  • Consider creating a second carreer in retirement.
  • Determine if debt could derail your retirement and what you can do about it now. Our checklist can help you. Afterall, one of the most important ingredients for a comfortable retirement is to be debt free when you retire.
  • Use this tool to maximize your retirement by determining the best age to take your Social Security benefits. Don't leave thousands on the table by taking Social Security at the wrong time.
  • Subscribe to After 50 Finances. You've learned how to work smarter, not harder. This weekly newsletter is dedicated to people just like you. Subscribers get a FREE copy of our After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist, a list of everything you need to do to be ready for retirement.

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

Stay Connected with TDS

Social Security Choices


You've learned how to work smarter, not harder.

After 50 Finances is a weekly newsletter dedicated to people just like you.

Retirement Checklist

And get a free copy of the After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist. Everything you need to do to be ready for retirement!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt