For millions of retirement savers, the pandemic was a gut punch. There was the jarring stock market drop in March 2020, then millions lost their jobs, health insurance and ability to fund their savings.
The pandemic stymied adults who hadn’t started saving for retirement, the number of workers taking withdrawals from their 401(k)s last year jumped, and some companies cut their 401(k) matching contributions.
John F. Wasik, a writer for The New York Times, spoke with financial advisers about the seven steps people can take now to catch up on their retirement savings:
Track your total spending. Spending has the biggest impact and is the input you have the most control over, said Clari Nolet, a certified financial planner and certified divorce financial analyst.
Focus on health insurance. When many people lose their jobs, they lose health insurance coverage for themselves and family. Those laid off can often continue their insurance under a COBRA plan, said Lori Price, a certified financial planner — but it can be onerously expensive.
Make catch-up contributions. If you’re 50 or older, the Internal Revenue Service gives you a little savings plum: You can save as much as an extra $6,500 annually in your defined contribution plans (which include 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457s).
Automate your savings. If you’re working and offered a 401(k) with automatic payroll withdrawals, you can simply increase your contribution. Want to save even more? Many plans allow you to increase your 401(k) savings when you get a raise.
Adjust your portfolio. Just socking more money into a bank money-market account won’t help you catch up much at all. Yields on money markets are awful — the top rate nationally was 0.60 percent, according to Bankrate.com.
Retire later. If you’re able, one simple strategy is to retire after the “normal” age for Social Security benefits, which is 66 for most Americans. That will give you more time to save. Social Security will even pay you more each month if you wait until 70 to collect benefits.
Set up your own plan. Small-business owners or those who are self-employed can set up their own plans, from Simplified Employee Pension I.R.A.s to 401(k)s.
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