Retirement savings: Guess how many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers fall short?

We’re all told time and time again how crucial it is to save for the future. But unfortunately, a large chunk of workers in their late 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s continue to put their retirement at risk.

In fact, 41% of Gen Xers and 42% of Baby Boomers have yet to start building their nest eggs, according to data compiled by Comet. And that’s obviously a lot scarier for the latter group, since they’re the ones with the least amount of time to play catch-up.

No matter your age, if you’ve been in the workforce a while and still have nothing set aside for retirement, it’s time to start changing your ways. Otherwise, you risk running out of money later in life, or never getting to retire at all.

Serious middle-aged man

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Social Security just won’t cut it

Many folks who hold off saving money for the future do so because their living expenses eat up their paychecks. Others, however, make more of a conscious decision not to save, thinking they can fall back on Social Security instead.

But contrary to what you may have heard, Social Security won’t provide enough income for you to live off in retirement. In fact, it won’t even come close. If you’re like the typical recipient, your benefits will cover roughly 40% of your previous income, assuming the program isn’t required to slash payments in the future. But even if we’re optimistic and assume we can rely on that 40% replacement income threshold, that’s still only about half of what the average senior will need in retirement.

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Not only do most people need around 80% of their previous earnings to live comfortably as seniors, but a large chunk of retirees also end up spending more money, not less, once their careers come to a close. How can that be? For one thing, your healthcare costs will probably rise in retirement, and not by a small margin. The average healthy 65-year-old couple today is expected to spend a whopping $400,000 or more on medical care in retirement, and that figure is projected to rise even more for future retirees. Throw in the fact that retirees tend to have the most free time on their hands, and therefore need money to fill it, and it’s no wonder so many seniors see their living costs climb.

What all of this means is that you really need to start saving immediately if you want a shot at a secure retirement. The good news, however, is that if you begin setting aside a decent chunk of money each month, and continue doing so consistently for the remainder of your career, you have more than enough opportunity to catch up.

Check out the following table, which shows how much you could retire with if you begin saving $500 a month at various ages:

If you start saving $500 a month at age:

Here’s what you’ll have by age 67:

37

$567,000

42

$379,000

47

$246,000

52

$151,000

57

$83,000

Note: Chart assumes a 7% average annual return. Data source: author.

You’ll retire with a decent nest egg if you begin saving $500 at month in your late 30s, or even in your early to mid-40s. But the older you get, the less those totals amount to.

On the other hand, if you’re in your 50s or 60s but commit to making up for lost time by maxing out a 401(k), you actually stand to retire with quite a bit of money. These days, anyone 50 and over can contribute up to $24,500 to an employer-sponsored plan. Is that a lot of money to part with each year? Absolutely. But watch what it’ll do for your retirement:

If you start maxing out a 401(k) at age:

Here’s what you’ll have at age 70:

50

$1 million

55

$616,000

60

$338,000

65

$141,000

Note: Chart assumes a 7% average annual return. Data source: author.

So there you have it: It’s not too late to salvage your retirement if you’re well into your career and have yet to begin to saving, but you also can’t afford to lose any more time at this point. So start cutting expenses, budgeting more carefully, and doing whatever it takes to free up money to save. You’ll be thankful for it down the line.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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