What To Do If You Have No Savings For Retirement

Retirement is ideally supposed to be a golden time of relaxation and enjoying a pleasant life. Sometimes that does not happen as easily as we'd hoped. What to do if you have no savings for retirement?

If you find yourself with no savings or you haven’t built as much of a nest egg as you’d hoped, and you’re staring down the barrel of retirement with a bank account that raises the hair on the back of your neck, know that you’re not alone.

Important discussions to have - what to do if you have no savings for retirement?

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The good news is that if you didn’t start saving as early as you should have, you won’t necessarily be relegated to clipping coupons and living on cat food.

This article is for those interested in facing retirement with spunk and a healthy dose of reality.

We will explore strategies to reinvent yourself and demonstrate that retirement, or opting otherwise, can be epic. So, buckle up!

What To Do If You Have No Savings For Retirement?

#1 Priority is Your Mindset Shift

First and foremost, let’s take a few moments to discuss the importance of adopting the proper mindset. Sadly, society has been selling you this vision of retirement that you must stop buying.

It’s this idea that retirement is the age where your physical ability and mental acuity starkly diminish. In contrast, reality is now awash with examples of 50 and 60-year-olds more on their game than they were at 25 or 30. Lifestyle choices are by far the ultimate equalizer.

In this discussion, the focus often gets placed on limitations regarding retirement age, when truly it can be a time of immense opportunity and growth.  Here's why:

Experience and Skills

With age comes a wealth of knowledge and skills accumulated over sometimes lengthy careers, lived experiences and life acquired wisdom.

These are valuable assets that can be leveraged in new and exciting ways.

Time and Flexibility

If or when you disengage from your job or career, it frees up time constraints.

More free time allows individuals to explore passions, pursue hobbies, learn new skills and even embark on entrepreneurial ventures.

Technological Advancements

The rise of the gig economy, remote work opportunities, online platforms, and now artificial intelligence (A.I.) make it easier than ever for everyone, including aging individuals, to generate income and stay “with it”.

This must be embraced for all the positives it brings, not feared. By embracing learning, aging individuals can actually become double and triple threats. For what it’s worth, lifelong learning is paramount and should never be halted.

Health Breakthroughs

People are living longer, healthier lives. With a little focus on healthy lifestyle choices, retirement is no longer just the end of a career.

Rather, it could be a chance for a new chapter, ideally an even better one.

Stellar Careers with Notorious Late Starts

With the mindset shift hopefully addressed decisively, let’s now cement it by reminding you of famous examples of people who launched amazing careers late in life, and made it their greatest achievement.

It’s inspirational as well as aspirational.

  • GEICO, the well-known insurance company, may have been bought by Warren Buffet, but founder Leo Goodwin, Sr. started the successful company as a first-time business at 50 years old, with his wife Lillian Goodwin. They were the ones who put it on the map.

  • Julia Child turned her love for French cuisine into a cookbook. At age 51, while promoting the book, she landed her endearing TV cooking show, the French Chef, one of the first in the genre.

  • Ray Kroc was also already 52 years old when he set out to get going with obtaining and transforming the McDonald’s brothers’ restaurant system into a global phenomenon. Looks like that may have worked out for him.

  • Taikichiro Mori, the Japanese real estate tycoon who once ranked as Forbes’ richest man in the world, did not start full time in real estate until he was 55 years old.

  • Duncan Hines perfected his signature cake recipes and later his packaged cake mixes, after a career as a travelling salesman and restaurant critic. It was in his late 50s that he started selling his renowned cake mixes as a business.

  • Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken after decades spent navigating multiple other jobs. At age 65, he kicked off the rise of KFC into a global fast-food chain with now 5 times more stores abroad than in the United States.

  • Grandma Moses didn’t start painting seriously until her 70s, and managed to make her depictions of rural life wildly popular, with her paintings displayed in museums of art worldwide.

This is not to say that these luminaries faced looming retirement with no savings at any time - we don’t know - but this is to drive home the point of what is possible even when starting at an advanced age.

With that said, what can you do to start your own journey?

Even strong savings plans, social security, pensions or investments can sometimes fall short, and some might rightfully crave a higher income or a more active lifestyle.

What to Do if You Have No Savings for Retirement?

Generate New Income Streams!

Self-Discovery

Find out and assess what you’re very good at -- or can become so, in a reasonable amount of time.

See if or how that skill is marketable. If you realize that people will be willing to pay you money for it, you are definitely on the right track. Pursue that.

Remote Work

Many companies offer remote work opportunities. The work-from-home industry is real and evolving due to cutting edge technological advances.

There are many opportunities, some you may not have considered. An acquaintance from California was tired of the daily grind and commute, and was looking for a work from home job.

She ended up getting hired via a Zoom interview to work for a French company with a new office on the East Coast, where the company needed to add English speakers to the team.

If you’re focused and patient, you can find remote positions that suit your skills and value your experience.

Part-time Work

Some choose to supplement social security by continuing working part-time, either in their field or a new one.

This can provide additional income, keep you mentally stimulated, and offer social interaction potentially leading to other opportunities.

Downsizing

Housing has become an imbroglio with no end in sight any time soon. The cost of housing is such that many now spend 70% of their income on it, more than twice the recommended budgetary norm.

If you own or rent a larger home, and maybe your kids have grown and moved out, you might opt for style rather than size.

This could mean looking for smaller living quarters. It could also mean relocating to a more affordable, and maybe more interesting area. You’ll reduce living expenses and potentially free up capital.

Rental Income

Of course, owning rental properties can provide a steady income stream, or three…

Remember Taikichiro Mori mentioned above? He went full-time into real estate at age 55 to become a multi-billionaire tycoon. You could be sitting on gold.

Peer-to-Peer Sharing Economy

Platforms like Airbnb or Ridesharing and services like Uber and Lyft allow individuals to utilize underused assets such as spare rooms or cars to earn money on their own terms.

This can also provide active employment opportunities, not to mention an escape from the lethal couch potato lifestyle.

Consulting or Freelancing

With expertise that is so valuable, you can leverage your experience through consultancy in your field.

You also have the option of entering the freelance economy where pay can go from beginners’ fees to experts’ earnings.

Content Creation

If you happen to have writing, teaching, or creative skills, you can create and sell digital products and other content online, publish physical and audiobooks, or offer coaching and courses.

Content creation is the cornerstone of the digital economy and can be as valuable as it gets.

Delaying Retirement

It’s a personal decision as to whether retirement is in one’s future or not. Just like some people decide to not have children, some people don’t have any intention of retiring and adopting a sedentary lifestyle. It’s a choice.

Whatever the case may be, working a few extra years also allows some to have more time for savings to accumulate and for Social Security benefits to increase.

Starting a Business

You can turn your hobby or skills into a small business, leveraging your knowledge and potentially finding a new passion project that pays.

Bar none, the main avenue to build significant wealth around your retirement is to start a business. Of course, having no savings may sound like a non-starter, but gigs such as freelancing can be launched with almost no money.

Also, you don’t have to choose a stressful route to get going. After all, a business can be teaching a yoga class and earning monthly subscriptions from it.

Or maybe your skillset is best put to use by piecing together an online class in your area of expertise and selling it on the worldwide web.

Perhaps your secret-recipe cookies are known to delight family and friends. Entrepreneurship is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You get to pick and choose.

Entrepreneurship

Full-time or on the side, this is the path with the highest potential for outsized returns. You can leverage your experience, your network, and accumulated resources to launch a successful business.

Success here hinges on identifying a viable market gap -- remember, strong businesses tend to solve a problem or alleviate pain points – then, you follow a strong business plan, and if needed, secure some funding.

Here's what makes entrepreneurship stand out:

  • Scalability

    A successful business can grow exponentially, generating much higher income than wages. Once that starts to happen, two clichés definitely apply: You control your own destiny, and The sky is the limit.
  • Equity Ownership

    As the entrepreneur who owns a piece or the entire company, value increases significantly if the business thrives. This can lead to much larger financial gains and returns ratios than even the most astute passive investments.
  • Legacy Building

    Building a successful business can also leave a lasting legacy, create jobs for others and even build generational wealth.

Let's also touch on the downside of entrepreneurship:

Starting a business is inherently risky. So, as money is the object, it’s important to tread lightly and not take unmanageable financial risks. Entrepreneurship is a fantastic endeavor, but it has no guarantee of success and requires significant time and effort.

Building a successful business can often take years, so people might need to be patient and have a longer-term perspective. It’s a good idea to know right away if there is evidence of money-making potential, and not just base the whole thing on hope.

Depending on the type, running a business can also be demanding and stressful.  If you choose this path, you should be prepared to put in significant work or just opt for a less hectic path.

So, while entrepreneurship offers the greatest potential for wealth creation, the final decision depends on an individual's risk tolerance, desire for control, fighting spirit, choice of occupation, long-term goals, etc. It's crucial to carefully research and plan before diving in.

What to do if you have no savings for retirement?

Facing looming retirement with no savings is not fatal. It’s a challenge to be sure, but with an effective game plan and fortitude, you can turn things around.

A combination of the options mentioned is individual and it calls for a cocktail that must suit your specific needs and circumstances. The only not-an-option is to wait indefinitely and do nothing.

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