Gen-Xers slog toward retirement

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If you are 20 or 25 years away from retirement, chances are you are smack in the middle of life — with young children, older parents, student debt, a big mortgage and a small retirement fund.

The nonprofit Pew Research Center found in 2012 that 44 percent of adults between the ages of 34 and 49 are “not confident” that they’ll have enough money for retirement.

In the 10 years prior to 2012, the median household wealth of people 35 to 44 years old dropped from nearly $100,000 to about $44,000, a 56 percent decline, according to Pew. At the same time, home equity for this group fell by 52 percent, Pew says.

Certified Financial Planner professional Melinda Kibler, with Palisades Hudson Financial Group’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, office, says Gen-Xers are unlikely to have old-fashioned defined benefit pensions, and they may not be able to count on receiving Social Security at the same levels available to current retirees, so they have to save aggressively. “People turn 45 and suddenly it is a big concern for them. They realize that they need a plan for an end game,” she says.

6 steps to meet your retirement goal

She recommends that Gen-Xers — and anyone else who faces the need to take control of their retirement planning — take these six steps. While they aren’t very exciting, they’ll get you where you need to be.

Overcome your complacency. Focus on the reality that the next 20 to 25 years will go quickly and if you don’t start saving now, you may not be able to afford to retire.

Make a budget. You can’t commit to saving regularly unless you know how much it takes to cover expenses and how much is available to stash in the kitty.

Focus on paying off debt. Getting rid of credit card and student loan debt is particularly important.

Max out your employer match. Saving less than the amount that your employer will match in your 401(k) is like turning down part of your salary.

Invest in stocks. Some people who were burned in the downturn now see stocks as risky. “But being too conservative is as risky as being too aggressive,” Kibler says. “If you put all your money in low return investments, there is a big risk that there won’t be enough growth to fund your retirement.”

Get help setting goals. If you don’t have a retirement road map, you can’t answer the question: “Are we there, yet?”

“Make a plan and stick with it,” Kibler says. “Think long term.”

Here are some more painless savings tips for Gen-X.