Being a Financial Planner, I am naturally more in tune with the truthfulness or, should I say, the intentions of retirement advertising. It’s all about hitting the pain points. Not much fun, right? At least buying a new car or a house is fun. Yet sometimes the important things in life are not “fun”. Retirement planning is one of those things.

When you need a new car, you check out the rates at the credit union. If you need a mortgage you also check rates. In other words, you shop for the best rate before you shop for your car or your new home. When was the last time you said, “Hey Honey, we haven’t saved enough for retirement. Let’s go down to the credit union and meet with a financial advisor.”? Probably never. I wish people were as in tune with their retirement planning as they are with getting a new car or a new house.

To compound matters, the big financial companies, that can afford to advertise on TV like to make you succumb to what I call the Lump Sum Scare. You know, they tell you that you need a lump sum of several million dollars or you won’t be able to retire – ever! I know better. If you haven’t saved “enough” and that is a relative term. It’s as personal as your fingerprints, you can still retire, be they different terms than maybe you are thinking about right now.

Let’s look at 5 ways you can retire on your terms, even if you are starting late.

  1. Work longer, retire later. Don’t forget, each year that you continue to work increases not only your Social Security benefit, if you have a pension it could increase that benefit as well. It will also allow your retirement investments to continue to grow.
  2. Work a second job or part-time after retirement. The first step is to figure out what your income shortfall will be and then you can start considering the type of part-time work you will need to supplement your other sources of income in retirement
  3. Reduce monthly expenses. Yes, this can be a painful process but in many cases, it will be necessary. This is why the budgeting step is so crucial. You don’t know what needs to be reduced if you don’t know what you are spending. Most retirees don’t need to live on their pre-retirement standard of living. It will probably be somewhere between 70-80% of what you are spending now. Once you have your budget you can figure out what can be reduced or eliminated.
  4. Increase the contributions to retirement accounts. Use the power of compounding and time to work in you favor. Even a small increase of $50 to $100 a month can have a dramatic effect on your retirement savings depending on how long you have until retirement.
  5. Sell an asset. Again, probably a tough decision. Maybe not, if that vacation home is going unused now that the kids have grown and are not as interested in using it as they were once upon a time. Or maybe you want to downsize and get a smaller, less expensive home or move to a part of the country that is less expensive than where you live now.

Don’t be forced by TV and social media. Meet with a financial advisor and decide what your retirement terms look like, even if you don’t have a big lump sum saved. You can still retire on your terms. Even if you are starting late.