By Donna McElroy

Barring potentially unpopular reforms to Social Security and changes to the ways Americans save, most seniors risk running out of money early during their retirement years. There are numerous proposals to expand retirement savings, and some states have implemented automatic-IRA systems for private-sector workers. Still, the politicization of retirement has resulted in the federal government’s inability to enact any meaningful reforms.

Government gridlock means that instead of waiting for “someone to do something,” people within a few years of retirement must make plans to deal with longevity risk themselves. If you are within ten years of retiring, here are a few steps you can take to help you close the gaps when you stop getting paychecks.

Put together a retirement advisory team. It’s likely you already have someone helping you as you accumulate retirement funds.

However, the skills and products used when the time comes to turn your savings into income differ significantly from those needed during the accumulation phase. Having someone specializing in retirement income on your team is critical to your success now and in the future.

Create a plan, monitor it regularly, and make changes as needed. An astonishing number of pre-retirees have never met with a financial professional. As a result, the majority of these do-it-yourselfers have no retirement blueprints. If you don’t have a written retirement plan, you stand a good chance of having your wealth eaten away by tax, inflation, and longevity risks.

Postpone retirement or get a part-time job. When you wait longer to stop working, you won’t have to draw down your retirement accounts as quickly. Many people who wind up poor in retirement do so because they spend relatively few years working. Less time spent working may be due to caring for disabled or elderly family members, poor health, frequent job changes, or bouts of unemployment. Even if you have already retired, you don’t necessarily want or need to leave the working world entirely.

Consider finding a rewarding part-time position, side gig, or online work that can supplement your income while still letting you spend with family or other interests. A side benefit to a part-time job is that you remain socially engaged and keep your brain sharp.

Become your auditor. Don’t rely on online statements. Numerous experts in debt management say that most people scrutinize their online transactions less thoroughly than they do paper ones. If you take the time to review every bill and bank transaction, you could find hundreds of dollars you never knew you had in overcharges, “mystery fees,” and interest.

Reduce debt: Credit card debt and high mortgages can create stress and sleepless nights once you stop getting a paycheck. Partner with your advisory team to formulate a sensible debt reduction plan.

In a nutshell: Economists predict people who retire in 2065 will have a retirement income gap of over $13,000. To cover this gap, workers will need to save around $273,000 more in their retirement accounts. If they don’t, they could be forced to rely on social programs, live with family members, or go back to work. If you are still employed, you must take measures to avoid that gap. Do things right now to increase your income, pay off debt, and increase contributions to your retirement savings accounts. Partner with a trusted financial expert to help guide you through creating (and sticking to) a solidly-constructed retirement plan.

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