7 Steps to Turbo-Start Your Retirement From Zero

It’s March. And if you’re a sports fan, this month means one thing: college basketball playoffs.

Just yesterday, the bigwigs released the brackets for the tournament that will showcase the best in collegiate hoops. And this morning, millions of people around the globe ignored their work and filled out their brackets, predicting who will win the championship. The first four games tip off in just a few days, so there’s no time to lose!

The same principle applies to turbocharging your retirement savings from zero: Time is running out and you’d better act fast!

Steps to Turbo-Start Retirement Savings

Ok, people, hear me loud and clear: If you’re in your 40s or 50s, building your nest egg from zero won’t be easy, but it can be done. You’ll have to make some drastic adjustments in your lifestyle and behavior. You can’t keep the same pattern and expect different results. Here are some ways you can kick your retirement savings into high gear:

1. Pay off debt. I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t I be putting money into retirement savings first? I get that. But when you look at the percentages you’re paying in interest fees, you can see why debt is retirement quicksand. Get serious about getting rid of those credit card bills. Declare war and pay off debt as soon as you can, whether that’s eight months or 18 months. You don’t have time to spare!

2. Curb spending. Remember that adage about a penny saved being a penny earned? There’s some truth to that. If you want to get serious about your retirement, that means changing the way you spend.

When my wife and I started getting serious about a budget and saving for retirement, we went from spending $1,200 a month on groceries when it was just the two of us to spending $750 a month for us and three kids! That’s because we were intentional about how we spent our money.

If you’re already on a budget, you’ll need to tighten up quickly! If your budget needs new life, check out our free EveryDollar budget tool to help you do a budget makeover.

3. Work more. At least temporarily. Take on extra hours for overtime pay. Find a weekend or seasonal job. Create a side job from a hobby. Yes, that means less free time. But if you don’t have enough money saved, you’ll be working long after you want to retire. Work now or work later—it’s up to you.

4. Downsize or relocate. Not everybody will need to take such drastic steps, but if you’re at zero in your 50s, you need to seriously consider these two options. A smaller home or a different location is a better option now than having to sell your home later and relocating in the kids’ house. Check out my Home Seller’s Special podcast for more information on finding the right agent, price, listing and offer.

5. Play catch-up with contributions. With the money you’re saving and earning, you can sock that cash away in an IRA. And if you’re 50 years of age or older, you can add an extra $1,000 in that IRA every year. If you have a 401(k), you can add an extra $6,000. By the way, you have until Tuesday, April 18, to contribute to the IRA for the 2016 tax year.

If you’ve finished the debt snowball and are starting on $0, check out My R:IQ to find out how much you’ll need to catch up. You can do it!

6. Bank the raise. Congratulations on that raise at work! Now, instead of upsizing your lifestyle, keep your budget and spending the same and put that raise toward retirement. And do that every year. You won’t notice anything different in your daily life, but you will notice the change in your investment account!

7. Delay retirement. Sure, everybody would love to retire as early as possible, but if your retirement account is on life support, you need to give it some time to get healthier. That means working a few more years than planned, which gives you more time to put money away and let compound interest do its thing. And, if you delay taking out Social Security until age 70, you could receive up to 124% of your benefits. That could mean a difference of $400 or more!

Sorry, there’s no magic formula for boosting your retirement fund. Just like college basketball, winning takes planning, determination and lots of hard work. And just like the playoffs, you can’t participate—or win—until you get in the game. So set your goals, talk with an investing professional to create a plan, and make progress!