Late to the Game? How to Ramp Up Retirement Investing in Your 40s and 50s

Like any anti-aging regimen, retirement planning takes regular maintenance.

Calculator being used for budgeting purposes
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But Piper stresses the value in dropping any upside target and instead concentrating on a downside target. That is, what is your maximum tolerable loss? Put a number on your emotional comfort zone and multiply it by two. So a 15 percent loss, doubled, becomes a 30 percent allocation.

Your allocation should be driven by your age, not by market history or present-day news, says Jane White, president and founder of education and advocacy organization Retirement Solutions. She believes investors should stay fully invested in stocks until they hit their 50s or so. She suggests multiplying your final pay (what you expect to earn right before leaving the workforce) by 10 to determine how much you'll need for a long, comfortable retirement.

With that target in mind, next time you look in the mirror, give yourself an honest talking to about the kind of makeover you may really need—more aggressive savings and smart inflation-beating and income-generating growth in your retirement stash.