9 Red Flags You’re Destroying Your Own Retirement by Not Saving Enough

As you get closer to retirement, you might be overwhelmed with different feelings about life after work. Sometimes you’re happy and excited, and at other times you feel worried and anxious. Although you look forward to leaving work for good, you often get that deep, sinking feeling your golden years might not be so golden. So instead of doing something about it, you stick your head in the sand and try not to think about it.
It might relieve some of your worries for the short term. But at some point you’ll be forced to face reality. Here are the top nine warning signs you’re failing to save enough money for retirement.

1. You have a sense of dread

Sarah Paulson appears in American Horror Story: Roanoke on FX
Are you dreading retirement? | FX

Do retirement worries keep you up at night? Are you having dreams of being forced to go back to work and spend most of your waking hours in a drab cubicle farm? When you think about retirement you should be filled with excitement, not dread. If you’re burdened with crushing anxiety about your retirement, you’re likely not squirreling away enough cash. Instead of closing your eyes, crossing your fingers, and hoping everything will turn out OK, do your part and plan ahead.
Next: Are you clueless about money?

2. You don’t know how much money you need

person taking money out of wallet
Learn your retirement number. | iStock.com/dolgachov

Do you know what your retirement number is? If you don’t, it’s not a great idea to take an educated guess. One telltale sign you’re not saving enough for retirement is if you have no idea how much money you’ll need. Finding out you haven’t saved enough when you’re already retired will be the wake-up call you would rather not have received. Instead of guessing, plan to meet with a certified financial planner.
Next: Retirement is looking like it will never come

3. Your retirement horizon is getting later and later

man looking at watch
Make a plan, and stick with it. | iStock.com/SIphotography

Many people have a general idea of when they’d like to retire. If you had a year in mind but that date keeps getting pushed back, this is a red flag. Maybe you were saving the recommended amount, but you stopped saving because of a financial setback. Or maybe you cut back on your savings because you can’t do all the things you want to do right now with your money. Whatever the reason, don’t keep resetting your retirement goal. Decide when you can realistically retire, find out how much you need to save, and stick with your plan.

4. You’re treating your retirement account like a piggy bank

Broken piggy bank with coins & hammer
Your 401(k) is not a piggy bank. | iStock.com/wpd911

When you hit hard financial times, your first step should be to access funds from your emergency savings, not your retirement account. If you’re finding you’ve been leaning heavily on your retirement account to bail you out, this is a bad sign. Although some purchases can be made with retirement money without penalty (such as a first home), this should be a last resort. Don’t touch your nest egg unless it’s absolutely necessary, such as a severe financial hardship, for example.

5. You plan to work until you die

feet of a deceased person
Work until you die? Think again. | iStock.com

So you think you’ll just stay at your job and work until they carry you out of there? Planning to work until you die isn’t a plan at all — it’s wishful thinking. There’s a chance you might become too sick to work until you draw your last breath. That’s why it’s always smart to save your cash as soon as possible. You never know what life might bring you, so prepare for the worst.
Approximately 25% of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they reach retirement, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration. Many millennials say they expect to work until they drop dead. A Manpower Group survey of adults ages 20 to 34 found 20% of millennials believe they’ll have to work until they die.

6. You keep making excuses

man holding money
Stop with the excuses. | iStock.com/Alen-D

It can be tempting to try to convince yourself that you’re not saving enough for retirement (or at all) because you have more pressing needs right now. Maybe your child will be starting college soon. Or perhaps you just started a new job, and you’re not making that much money. Whatever your excuse is, it’s not good enough.
As soon as you start working, that’s the time to start saving for your golden years. Don’t delay saving until you make more, when the kids graduate college, or when you pay off your mortgage. If you don’t start now you’ll never get around to it.

7. Your account balances are low

Young couple looking at bank statement
If balances are low, you’ve got work to do. | iStock.com

This is one of the biggest warning flags of them all. Have you looked at your retirement statements lately? Are the balances a lot lower than they should be for someone at your stage in life? If you’re well into your career and your retirement accounts don’t reflect the amount you should have saved for your age and time in the workforce, you’ve got some work to do.
Thankfully, there are ways you can catch up with retirement savings. For 2017, you’re allowed to contribute a maximum of $18,000 to a 401(k). If you’re age 50 or older you can make an additional catch-up contribution of $6,000. In addition, you can contribute a max of $5,500 for 2017 across all IRA accounts and a max of $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.

8. You’re overspending

women with paper bags walking in the mall
That new outfit won’t provide a secure future. | iStock.com/shironosov

A big part of preparing for retirement is learning to live on less. If you can’t master this simple money rule now, you’re in for big problems. A general rule of thumb is to set aside 10% to 15% of your take-home pay for saving and investment. Spending too much of your income is a setup for financial disaster. Before you know it, you’ll overspend to the point where you’ll have to rely on credit to bridge the gap.
Once your cards are maxed out and your savings is spent, you might be faced with no other choice but to tap retirement savings or cut back on savings. Failing to live below your means could lead to a domino effect that will topple your financial security in no time.

9. You don’t know how to prepare

young female worried by what she sees on cell phone
Become financially literate; you’ll be less confused. | iStock.com/nandyphotos

You won’t be able to adequately prepare for retirement if you don’t understand what you’re doing or how to begin. Some basic financial literacy is necessary to be a successful retirement saver. If you don’t know how to get started, there are tons of books, magazines, websites, and seminars you can access. It’s also a good idea to set up a meeting with a certified financial planner. Be proactive about getting the information you need.


woman with book
Read a book. | iStock.com/DeanDrobot

Are you ready to get serious about your retirement? We sure hope so. Here are some resources to help you get started:

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