Today was rough — your boss yelled at you, your co-workers are as evil as ever, and you’re facing a two-hour commute home. Your lunch break has barely begun and you’re already daydreaming about going home and getting in your bed so that you can forget this horrible day. As you go through your work day, visions of retirement are dancing in your head. However, if you don’t have the financial resources, your dreams won’t become reality anytime soon — you’ll just have to tough it out until you scrape together enough cash to make your escape. Are you on track to pack it up for good? Unless you get a few key goals in order, you’ll have to keep daydreaming for now (and working, of course). Here are some signs you’re just not ready to retire. Sorry.
1. You don’t have a financial plan
Despite what your co-worker said, the retirement fairy isn’t a real thing. Don’t think you’re just going to fall into a comfortable retirement after years of not planning for — or even thinking about — your golden years. Everything won’t just come together at the last minute, particularly because it generally takes 30 or more years to save enough money. Sure, you could win the lottery, but you could also face a financial disaster that sets you back. It’s best to prepare for the worst.
If you’re not sure how to begin the retirement planning process, make an appointment with a certified financial planner. He or she can help you learn what you need to do to reach a realistic retirement goal. A financial planner can also help you figure out how much money you’ll need in total to retire comfortably, and you’ll receive assistance with developing a way to save the money you need. There are also several retirement tools that can supplement your work with a financial planner.
2. You recently experienced a major financial setback
Retirement curve balls crash through the windshield of life when you least expect them. If you’re close to retirement and then experience a major setback such as a divorce, job loss, or birth of a child (hey, lots of surprise babies come later in life), you’ll need to rethink your retirement target date. It will also be necessary to either add income or cut back on spending so that you can adjust for the financial changes that have occurred. If you continue to spend as you have been, you won’t be able to reach your retirement goal in a timely manner.
3. Your money is tied up with financing your child’s college tuition
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Your child can get a scholarship for college, but you can’t get a scholarship for retirement. If financing your child’s college education is preventing you from saving as much as you could for retirement, it would be wise to cut back your financing or stop paying the tuition altogether. Have your child take on more responsibility when it comes to filling out financial aid applications and looking for grants and scholarships. There’s no guarantee your children will be able (or willing) to help you out financially when you reach retirement, so take care of your retirement finances now while you still have time. This way, you won’t have to burden them.
4. You still have a lot of debt
Are debt demons haunting you at night? Significant credit card debt or a large mortgage will set you back. These large debts will eat into your retirement savings and make daily living a struggle. Make sure to pay down as much debt as you can before making your exit.
5. You’re lagging behind your savings goal
If you’re way off track with your retirement savings, you’re not ready. You’ll likely have to work longer so that you can make a last-ditch effort to retire somewhat comfortably. If you find yourself in this boat, catch-up contributions may also help. For 2016, 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.
Once you’ve gotten closer to your goal, you’ll need to monitor your savings efforts — now is not the time to set it and forget it. One way to get a better idea of how close or far you are to your goal is to use a retirement savings calculator. This can help you see whether you’re right on schedule or if you should be saying a prayer. When calculating your retirement needs, don’t forget to take into account additional expenses such as health care.
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.