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Here’s the good news: If you live to celebrate your 65th birthday, you will probably see your 85th. But if you want these bonus decades to be a time of financial freedom — with cruises, tours, family visits and a certain amount of ease — you have to have the cheddar, as Jay Z would say. A proper nest egg will ensure that you achieve what we at AARP call financial resilience.
If you’re still in your 50s, there’s good news for you, too. You have time to build up resources that will help you finance a great life in the coming decades. And there are ways to make sure that happens.
Perhaps the most important is a psychological shift. “ ‘Saving for retirement’ has a hollow ring to it,” says AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, whose new book, Disrupt Aging, is excerpted in AARP The Magazine. “What if, instead, we think of saving for the opportunity to do the things we’ve always wanted to do? What if, instead of saving for retirement, we save for life?”
Save for life. If you’re in need of inspiration, take a look at the photos on the cruise pages, add your own and make a mental vision board of where you’d like to be and what you’d like to be doing in your future, retired or not.
Make it automatic. Saving for anything is hard. It takes discipline. Sacrifice. So make it as easy as possible by making it automatic. As University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler told the Wall Street Journal, the best way for most people to save for retirement is through their employer’s savings plan, one of the greatest tax shelters for the middle class. If you’re not currently in your company’s savings plan, get in as soon as you can, even if your deductions start small — a percentage or 2 each year — and watch your savings grow, tax sheltered with compound interest.
Use the force. In her brilliant little new book, How to Retire with Enough Money, the economist and retirement expert Teresa Ghilarducci talks about the power of compounding. When you carry debt, the force is against you, but if you start to save even 1 percent in a smart way, the magic of compounding is your wizard’s assistance.
Even such modest savings can be a big help in maximizing your Social Security benefits. “Any bit of money that helps you delay Social Security is a path toward retirement security,” says Ghilarducci, who notes that the longer you wait, the bigger the benefit will be, up until age 70.
See also: 11 things that are cheaper in retirement
Of course, not everyone has access to a retirement plan that deducts money from your paycheck before you can spend it. But even if you don’t, you can still trick yourself into saving by having your bank automatically transfer money from checking to savings every payday. And if you get a raise, increase the amount you transfer into savings. Or, once you pay off your car loan or credit card, make those monthly payments into your savings account instead.
Worldwide, only about 30 percent of us consider ourselves financially literate, but it’s never too late to start learning. Also, check out AARP columnist Jane Bryant Quinn’s latest book, How to Make Your Money Last, for advice on affording the life you want.