Hard work can shore up flimsy savings

I have not made good financial/career choices for myself and am now 53 with hardly any retirement fund at all. What steps can I take at my age to do whatever is possible in the time left to help myself out?
Rebecca Morris
Auburn, Wash.

 Rebecca, it's not too late. In fact, it's never too late. You just have to play a little catch-up.

For starters, one of the best things you can do when you're behind the eight ball is to plan to work a little longer. Instead of retiring at age 65, hang in there for a few more years. The income you earn during these years will help out in a big way, because not only will you not have to draw from your retirement fund -- which means the money has more time to grow -- but you'll earn more to contribute as well.

Aside from that, you need to start making cuts in your budget and funneling any extra money you can squeeze out into either a 401(k) or IRA. If your employer provides matching dollars, at least contribute enough to grab them -- it's the closest you'll come to free money. And if you really look over your budget with a magnifying glass and find there is just no room for improvement, I want you to work a little overtime or moonlight on the side. Every little bit helps.  

Finally, if you can push off taking your Social Security benefit when you hit age 62, do it. The amount increases significantly for every year you put it off, so hold off as long as you can for the biggest payout.

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