By Jessica Jones
Senior Financial Advisor, BOK Financial

Only 37% of non-retiree adults said their retirement savings were on track in the 2019 Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households. Another 25% reported having no retirement savings at all.

You’re not alone if you’re feeling behind.

The reasons for not saving are many: financial support for family members, inadequate income, student debt, and the increasing costs of healthcare and housing. No matter where you are in the savings process, there are some adjustments to help get back on track.

Start as young as you can. Staying disciplined and consistent is the best advantage you can give yourself to getting ahead. About 50% of the clients I work with who have not adequately prepared are in their 40s or 50s. Many have only their 401(k) and are relying on Social Security to make up the difference.

Tips to boost your retirement savings

Work with a financial advisor who can guide you. Nearly 60% of non-retirees with self-directed retirement savings expressed low levels of comfort in making investment decisions, according to the Economic Well-Being report. I recommend working with an expert who knows your investment options, assets and expenses.

Have a financial plan. The 2022 State of Retirement Planning Study said that savers with a
retirement plan have significantly higher levels of confidence and peace of mind in their ability
to retire not only when and how they want, but in knowing how much money they'll need.

Be a lifelong learner. Read, watch or listen to reliable sources—including your financial advisor—about changes impacting the markets or recommended annual savings withdrawals.

Postpone Social Security withdrawals to increase the payout.

Rather than expanding your lifestyle, save raises or bonuses into your retirement accounts.

Increase your savings one percent per year to minimize budget impacts.

Make a big change, like downsizing a home or a vehicle you no longer need, to save on expenses.

Spend less on discretionary items like hobbies, travel or recreation.

Take on a part-time or hobby-style side hustle.

Plan to work a few years longer where retirement benefits or employer contributions are provided.

As worrisome as your situation may be, experts, myself included, caution investors to consider the risks of taking desperate "Hail Mary" measures to catch up retirement savings. Timing the markets or placing risky "big bets" near or during retirement will likely exacerbate, not alleviate, the feeling of being behind.

Instead, I would encourage those saving for retirement to maximize their savings, diversify portfolios and adjust spending to make the most of their retirement years. I know it’s daunting, especially during times of high inflation and volatile markets. But take comfort in the fact that we’re all navigating this together.

If you have a financial expert you trust, rely on their
expertise. Be diligent: It's not a 'set it and forget it' process. Jessica Jones is a senior wealth manager at BOK Financial Advisors with 16 years of experience counseling private clients and 401(k) participants.