7 Mistakes That Could Keep You From Retiring

Retirement isn’t an age. I’ve talked to millionaires in their 30s and 70-year-olds who are still working. Retirement can happen when you hit that magic number—the amount of money you’ll need to live out your retirement dreams.

Unfortunately, some people will never reach that financial number. They will work until they’re forced to retire because they made some poor decisions with their money and their future.

Here are some reasons you may be packing your lunch for work instead of packing your suitcase for vacation:

1. You waited too late to start saving. Or worse, you’re not saving at all. Earlier this year, Ramsey Solutions commissioned a survey to learn about retirement in America. The research showed that 42% of people aren’t saving anything for retirement. A whopping 54% of working Baby Boomers have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. And half of those working Boomers have nothing saved! That’s not okay! The earlier you start saving, the earlier you’ll be able to enjoy the retirement chapter of your life.

2. You’re in debt. Debt is retirement quicksand. When you’re making payments on that fancy car, think about what it would be like to put that money toward retirement. When you’re in debt, you’re robbing yourself of your future. That’s why I always recommend paying off your debt first (except the house). Then you can be earning interest instead of paying it!

3. You robbed your 401(k). When you take money from your 401(k) for a down payment or a new car, you are robbing yourself of the compound interest that money could be making for you. And unfortunately, if you borrow from your 401(k) once, you’re more likely to borrow against it again. And again. That’s a bad habit, so don’t even go there!

4. You’re listening to your wants. Here’s the honest truth: If you only pay attention to your wants now, you’ll struggle to provide for your needs later. Now, I’m not saying you can’t enjoy some fun as you work toward retirement. It’s okay to treat yourself every now and then. But maybe your vacation takes you to a different state instead of a different continent.

5. You’re not saving enough. The Ramsey Solutions survey showed that only 10% of Americans are saving the recommended 15% of their income. Once you’re out of debt and have a fully stocked emergency fund of three to six months of living expenses, you need to work toward investing 15%. You can use the rest of your income to save for kids’ college and pay off your mortgage.

6. You jumped off the roller coaster. The roller coaster called the stock market, that is. Investing is a long-term process, not quick ride. There will be ups and downs. When the market goes down and you consistently invest month after month, you’re getting a great deal on those stocks. And when the price goes back up, you’ve made money. So when the market takes a nosedive, don’t freak out. It’ll eventually correct itself and you’ll be back in the black again.

7. You’re not playing catch-up. Beginning at age 50, the IRS will allow you to make annual “catch-up” contributions. You can add an extra $6,000 to your 401(k) and $1,000 to your IRA. Take advantage of this! If invest that extra $6,000 from age 50 to age 65, you could end up with more than $200,000 more for retirement. That amount could pay for a huge chunk of your medical expenses in your retirement years.

The good news is that your retirement future is entirely in your hands. You can hit that magic dollar amount. You can get out of debt. You can start saving more. You can focus on your needs and budget for the fun stuff. And you can keep your eye on the end goal—that retirement you’ve been dreaming about! Don’t try to go it alone — talk to a financial advisor who can help you reach your goals.

Living the life you want is possible if you do the hard work it takes to get there.