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Question: My husband and I both turned 50 last month, and while we were happy with all the well wishes and even a surprise party for us both, we’re actually panicked about retirement. With our older daughter graduated from nursing school, I want to start urgently saving. My husband is a good man, but he’s already defeated.
He keeps saying, “Why bother? We’re so far behind, we might as well enjoy our lives right now. We’ll just have to keep working.” I love him, but I want to kill him. How do I convince him it’s never too late to starting saving for retirement?
— Samantha in Arkansas
Almost every week, I’m asked by one spouse to tell the other, “You’re wrong!” And almost every week, the answer is more nuanced than that. One spouse may be more right, but seldom is one totally right and the other is totally wrong.
In this case, your husband is totally wrong — completely and 100 percent, with not even a shadow of a doubt.
Your timing is impeccable, Samantha, because just last month, I read a report on this very topic. Wells Fargo questioned more than 1,000 Americans of all ages and found those between the ages of 55 and 59 have saved three times as much as those 60 or older.
Why? Because regular savings add up, and so does the interest on those savings. Obviously, the earlier you start saving, the more you’ll have at retirement.
“This study shows what a tremendous difference a few years can make when it comes to retirement savings,” says Wells Fargo’s Joe Ready. “The fact that people in their late 50s have three times the savings of those age 60 or older shows that starting early and saving consistently are key to retirement saving.”
Your husband isn’t alone in believing he’ll just work longer and save later. The poll shows one-third of working Americans between the ages of 55 and 59 “plan to save for retirement later in order to make up for not saving enough now.” I seriously doubt they will, and I’m not the only one.
“People who think working longer – perhaps into their 70s or later – is a retirement plan should realize they may not be able to work longer,” Ready says. “Unforeseen circumstances crop up, and this is really important for people to recognize.”
So you’re right, Samantha, but that’s cold comfort unless there’s a solution to your dilemma. You didn’t mention if you’re carrying any debt now – from credit card debt to student loan debt for your daughter – but the first step to saving for retirement is to retire those debts.
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Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.
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