You may not exactly talk about it outright, but do you have a sneaking suspicion that someone you care about hasn’t made great strides in saving for retirement? In fact, the person you love might be grossly behind in saving for one of life’s key financial must-dos.
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You’ve got good reason for your suspicions. A whopping 52% of American workers reported that they were behind their own retirement savings goals, according to a national poll from Bankrate.
Only 16% said they had saved enough to land where they could support themselves during their golden years. Just 11% reported that they’d saved more than they needed to. A full 20% said they didn’t have any idea how much they should have saved for retirement.
It’s a delicate subject, but you can tackle it with sensitivity. Here’s how to help a loved one through retirement savings, pronto.
How to Help Your Loved One
Let’s walk through how to approach a retirement savings conversation with a loved one.
Tip 1: Find a comfortable place to have the discussion.
Talking about your loved one’s lack of financial prowess in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner (with 12 family members gawking back and forth at both of you during your shouting match) won’t win you any “best brother” or “best uncle” awards. Your loved one will likely feel trapped and may never want to talk about money matters with you again!
Make sure you choose a private place to have the discussion with an engaged, willing participant. Your loved one should feel comfortable wherever you choose to have the discussion, whether that’s during a private tee time or in a corner of the family room over a game of chess.
Tip 2: Approach the topic with sensitivity.
Once you find a comfortable location and you’ve noted that your loved one is ready to engage in a discussion about retirement planning, remember to take a less-than-aggressive approach. You may not know how your family member or friend feels about his or her lack of funds — he may be feeling guilty, frustrated, angry, defensive or even ashamed about missed milestones and opportunities.
Talks about money habits must start with extreme empathy. You may have even been there before. Talk to your loved one about how you’ve felt stress about money. And even if you’ve never been in the doghouse financially, you can empathize by using another situation in which you feel trapped, ashamed and stressed.
Nobody wants to talk to someone who’s holier-than-thou, so remember to take a “Hey, I’m here to help. I understand what you’re going through” approach.
Tip 3: Acknowledge that money is hard to talk about.
Many people don’t enjoy talking about money, so it’s okay to admit that you feel like a fish out of water. A Wells Fargo survey found that 44% of Americans would rather talk about subjects like death, politics and religion than personal finance!
You can even admit that you don’t like talking about it with your spouse, if that’s true. Money often leads as one of the top stressors in relationships and also headlines as a common reason for divorce. Time magazine reported that 40% of soon-to-be married couples never talk about money before they tie the knot.
If you’re jiggling your leg and twitching in your seat, acknowledge that with your friend or family member. Explain that it’s not easy for you, either. However, you can explain that you’ve got important things to talk about and that’s why you’re there!
Tip 4: Ask about a 401(k) plan.
Does your loved one have a 401(k) plan through his or her job? If so, encourage taking advantage of it. Make it as easy as possible for your loved one to set up a 401(k) plan. In fact, offer to help him or her to set one up or meet with a financial representative for the 401(k) plan at work.
Encourage your friend or family member to take full advantage of any matching funds that their employer offers on a 401(k) plan. A good rule of thumb: Your friend or family member should contribute as much as possible to their own plan in order to to get the maximum match offered by the employer. It’s free money! Most employers offer this option, but not all do.
Encourage your friend or family member to save at least 10% of their income, though 15% is always better! Your friend or family member may need to boost that amount even more if they’re getting started saving later in life. Use MarketBeat’s retirement calculator to determine how much they’ll need to save in order to meet their retirement goals.
If your loved one doesn’t have a 401(k) at work, look into 403(b)s, 457s or another type of plan. If all else fails, encourage your loved one to set up an individual retirement account (IRA) or Roth IRA. You may want to introduce your friend or family member to several reputable brokerage accounts if he or she has never used one before.
Tip 5: Assure your loved one that it’s possible to catch up.
Your loved one may feel paralyzed about saving for retirement and may even fall victim to the “It’s too late for me” phenomenon. It’s easy to see why they might feel that way. Experts suggest aiming to save at least the following amounts:
- By age 30: The equivalent to your annual salary
- By age 40: Three times your annual salary
- By age 50: Six times your annual salary
- By age 60: Eight times your annual salary
- By age 67: 10 times your annual salary
If your loved one is older, talk about catch-up contribution options offered in many retirement plan options. A catch-up contribution refers to a type of retirement savings contribution that allows people who are 50 or older to make additional contributions to 401(k) accounts and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Workers can make more than the standard contribution limit.
For example, if your friend or family member contributes to a 401(k), the limit is $19,500 for 401(k) plans but they can contribute an extra $6,000 for individual retirement accounts in 2021 if they’re over 50.
Similarly, they can contribute an extra $1,000 for a total of $7,000 to a Roth IRA in 2021. Again, they may need to save beyond that in other accounts in order to meet the 10-times-annual-salary goal purported by experts.
Help a Loved One Get Ahead
You may be surprised how relieved your friend or family member feels after you have the discussion, especially once you come up with a cohesive plan. However, your loved one may be facing other challenges, such as debt challenges. You may not be able to help if it’s not a simple discussion about signing up for the company retirement plan.
In that case, have your loved one talk to a financial advisor who can help come up with a plan to tackle debt and a comprehensive plan to invest for the future.