Boomer Perspective: Retirement Savings for Us Boomers and for Our Millennial Son

My retirement: Sitting on my porch sipping lemonade watching folks head off to work or jet setting to a resort of my choice. Ah! What a life, what a dream!

Now that I am almost an empty-nester it is time to kick my retirement savings plan up a notch. We are downsizing our home, kicking the kids out and reducing all expenses to max out our retirement investments. This includes our 401ks and IRAs. At this time, I realized that my millennial son is now eligible to participate in all the retirement programs offered by his job.

From the lessons I have learned in saving for retirement, starting early is the best option. Along with being consistent with whatever amount you have decided to start with, I have advised him to review his finances and determine what percentage of his income he is comfortable with investing. If his company offers a matching % he should let that be his starting point no matter what. Not doing so is like throwing away free money.

However, he still must live day to day and be happy, because for a millennial thinking of growing old and needing retirement funds is so far off his radar right now. He is still more interested in gaming and hanging out with his friends.
As for me and my husband, we are re-adjusting our lifestyle to free up as much cash as we can. Downsizing to a smaller home will go a long ways towards obtaining our retirement goals.

Homeownership has always been viewed as a source of wealth and security for many Americans, but the financial crisis of 2007 changed that for so many boomers. According to a 2014 study conducted by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than 40% of those over 65 still carried a mortgage on their homes in 2010. This is essentially twice the percentage from the mid-1990s, less than two decades before. Homeowners between age 50 and 65 were also more likely to carry a mortgage as well: the percentage rose from 60% in 1992 to more than 70% by 2010.

Even though our mortgage will be paid off by the time we retire, the amount of money to upkeep our home is best utilized towards investing in our retirement future. Also, the work it takes to maintain the property has become too much for just two people. In our case, smaller is much better.

Some additional scary statistics about baby boomers and retirement savings:
• About half of all Americans 55 and older have no retirement investments at all, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.
• According to Vanguard’s How America Saves 2014, which provides statistics about the more than 3 million people who have a defined contribution retirement plan managed by Vanguard, the median 401(k) balance for those over 55 was less than $75,000 in 2013.

My husband and I are working very hard not to be part of these statistics. We have been saving for our retirement for years through the 401k programs at our jobs and private investments and are on the road to retire comfortably. We have about 15 to 20 more years to save with the option of still working past 65 if we are able to do so or have this desire. Our secret has been to live below our means, saving consistently, working hard, and taking advice from a financial professional.

Stay tuned to see how life happens and plans can be derailed.