Last-Minute Retirement Saving Strategies

Here’s how to catch up if you are close to retirement with no savings.

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I'd like to think that readers of this retirement column are well on their way to building a comfortable retirement. But many people have a long journey ahead of them before they will reach financial independence. Those who are close to retirement and have little or no savings need a serious push to save more. Here’s what to do if you have little saved when you are close to retirement:

Stop hoping. There's no more time for you to sit around hoping something good will happen to your net worth. Take charge of the situation by making the necessary changes to have a better retirement. Start saving with your very next paycheck. The more you save, the better things will be for you in retirement.

Fire your financial adviser, if you have one. If your financial adviser hasn't convinced you or at least tried to talk you into saving enough for retirement, he's obviously not adequately addressing your financial needs. And this financial adviser likely gets a cut or fixed fee from the money you do have saved. You can put that extra money into your retirement savings.

Downsize your home. Consider downsizing your home, because chances are good that you can kick your savings up a few notches just by living in a smaller house. Your mortgage payment will be much lower, and your property taxes, utilities, maintenance, and general upkeep costs will all probably go down as well. This single adjustment can sometimes dramatically improve your finances, and you may even feel happier once you are no longer working so hard to pay for your house. You should also consider downsizing other aspects of your lifestyle to reduce your expenses.

Take advantage of catch up contributions. People age 50 or older can contribute more to tax advantaged retirement accounts than younger savers. Use this increased limit to turbocharge your savings and to avoid the tax drag on your investment returns.

Consider investing more conservatively. Many people are tempted to increase their investment risk when they feel they are coming up short on their retirement goals. But not having enough money is actually a strong indication that you should reduce your risk, because bad luck with the markets can be devastating to someone who doesn't have that much left to lose. This goes back to the first point about hope, which is not a sound strategy. Always remember to invest according to both your willingness and ability to take risk.

Don't forget about your health. Medical expenses are likely to go up in the future. But you can significantly reduce your costs by staying as healthy as you can. Exercise often, and make the effort to watch what you consume on a regular basis. This combination will improve your quality of life beyond just dollars and cents because you will have more energy and feel better about yourself.

Being close to retirement with no savings is tough, but the game isn’t over yet. It's never too late to take steps to shore up your finances. Your retired self will appreciate any extra savings you can accumulate.

David Ning runs MoneyNing, a personal finance site that shares money moves you can make to significantly increase your chances of having a comfortable retirement. He likes to share simple changes that anyone can make, such as picking the best online savings account and figuring out whether a 0 percent balance transfer credit card makes sense.