Even before the coronavirus put millions out of work and sent financial markets into a tailspin, Americans of all ages were concerned about putting aside enough money for their later years.
Fewer than half — 44% — said they were on track or even ahead of schedule with their retirement savings, according to a John Hancock study published early in 2020.
Now, the pandemic and the recession have many people feeling so financially insecure that they're having second thoughts about their retirement plans. A new survey from LendingTree and the investing app Stash finds that a quarter of Americans expect they'll have to retire later than they thought.
If your nest egg has taken a hit — or if you didn’t have a nest egg to begin with — here are a few ways to get your retirement savings where you want them to be.
Talk to a professional
The first step you should take if you’re feeling uncertain is to talk to a professional.
A certified financial planner, or CFP, can help you prioritize your financial goals, offer valuable insight regarding your investments and build you a personalized saving strategy for the future.
Some banks provide free financial planning services, so it’s worth looking into whether you qualify for a free consultation.
You also can use an online financial planning service if you want to avoid the hassle of meeting up with a CFP in person during the pandemic.
The online CFPs are held to the same rigorous fiduciary standards as in-person advisers, so whichever route you take you can feel confident they’ll have your best interests at heart.
Refinance your mortgage
If you’re a homeowner, you may be able to free up some extra money for your retirement savings by refinancing your home loan into one of today’s record-low mortgage rates.
Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have fallen south of 3% in 2020 and have hit new all-time lows more than 10 times this year, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Trading in your existing mortgage for a loan at a better rate could potentially save you hundreds of dollars a month. Investing that for retirement could make a huge difference.
You’re a solid candidate for a refi if you own at least 20% of your home, have a credit score of 720 or higher or could cut your current 30-year mortgage rate by 0.75% or more.
Just keep in mind that when you refinance you’ll be required to pay closing costs — typically between 2% and 5% of your total loan amount — so make sure that these administrative fees won’t outweigh the savings you’ll see from refinancing.
Stay on top of your credit score
Whether you’re looking to refinance or not, maintaining a solid credit score is an important part of your financial plan.
You might not think that your credit score matters once you’re retired, but it does.
And while you’re still working toward retirement, your score directly impacts the interest rates you receive on things like loans and credit cards. Lower rates mean more money available to set aside for the future.
It’s OK if you haven’t looked in on your credit score in a while (or ever); you can check it for free online. If your score is lower than average, you can get personalized tips on how to bump it up.
It’s free advice, and it actually works: Credit monitoring has helped some people improve their scores by more than 200 points.
Cut down your monthly bills
While you’re saving for retirement, every dollar that you can shave off your regular expenses is another dollar you can invest.
A good place to start is with your subscription services. A 2018 study by Waterstone Management Group found that 84% of consumers underestimate how much they spend on subscriptions.
Next, see if you can save money on essential monthly bills, including car insurance. It’s worth taking a look every six months to see if you can find a better rate.
You may be able to find the coverage you currently have at a much lower price, saving yourself $1,000 a year or more.