This generation is way behind on saving for retirement. Here’s how they can catch up

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The generation closest to retiring isn’t yet financially prepared, and they have a few thoughts on how best to catch up.

More than six in 10 adults across all ages say they need to do more for their retirement savings, but 73% of Gen Xers polled feel this sentiment, even more than the 66% of millennials who said so, according to a TD Ameritrade AMTD, +3.69%  survey of more than 1,000 Americans 23 and older with at least $10,000 in investable assets. Only half of baby boomers said they needed to catch up.

See: Money expert Jean Chatzky on how Americans should save for retirement and what you are getting wrong about the FIRE movement

The members of Generation X (who were born between 1965 and 1980) can’t be blamed for not starting early. Many blame inadequate income as a barrier to a satisfying nest egg, as well as housing costs, supporting other family members and health care. While more than a third said they started saving or investing early, but 26% said the reason they fell behind is because they started investing too late. Almost a quarter of millennials and Gen Xers said their non-discretionary spending kept them from having enough (and millennials also blamed housing costs, supporting family members financially and student loan debt).

Millennials are more optimistic about retiring by 65 or earlier than members of Generation X, who are the least confident in catching up on their long-term savings goals (still, 65% of Gen Xers said it’s possible to do so, compared to 68% of boomers and 72% of millennials).

There are various ways to catch-up on savings. Gen Xers, who are approaching traditional retirement age, are working on raising their income (53% said that’s how they think they’ll be able to catch up), followed by working longer, spending less on non-discretionary expenses and increasing 401(k) contributions.

Boomers were most likely to say spending less would increase savings, followed by raising income and then improving markets. Millennials were more likely to vote for raising income, then spending less, followed by working longer. Others thought they could catch up by learning more about managing their finances, getting a side job, automating their savings and cutting off family members financially.

Also see: Americans get this wrong about retirement saving

People are considering trade-offs to save more. Gen Xers specifically would consider tweaking small expenses, such as packing lunch for work and brewing coffee at home instead of buying food and beverages outside. More than four in 10 also said they’d downsize their housing expenses and cut back on going out with friends. More than two-thirds said they’d reduce spending on vacations too. But many said they’d trim expenses during retirement rather than before retirement (70% versus 30%). And they’d also rather work part-time in retirement (73%) than push retirement back a few years (27%).

Gen Xers are in luck: there’s one more tool they may already have. Many employer-sponsored retirement plans, like 401(k) plans, allow catch-up contributions beginning at age 50. The maximum contribution limit is $19,000 in 2019, but workers 50 and older can contribute an additional $6,000, for a total of $25,000.

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