By the time you've hit 40, you should have a solid handle on your finances. This is especially true for matters related to retirement, since your golden years are fast approaching.
To be financially ready to retire by 67, retirement-plan provider Fidelity Investments says you should aim to have six times your salary saved by age 50.
Are Americans on track?
According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the mean retirement savings of a family between 44 and 49 years old is $81,347:
But that number doesn't tell the whole story. Since so many families have zero savings and since super-savers can pull up the average, the median savings, or those at the 50th percentile, may be a better gauge. The median for families between 44 and 49 is only $6,200.
To get closer to Fidelity's recommendation of having six times your salary saved by 50, follow these four steps so your money can grow over time:
1. Contribute as much of your income as possible. Most experts recommend setting aside 10% or more in a tax-advantaged retirement savings account, such as a 401(k) plan.
2. Automate your contributions. Have your employer do a payroll deduction or have your money taken out of your checking account and sent straight to your retirement account. You'll never see the money and will learn to live without it.
3. Get in the habit of upping your savings consistently, either every six months, at the end of each year or whenever you get a raise. Again, if you make this automatic by setting up "auto-increase," you won't forget to up your contributions (or talk yourself out of setting aside a larger chunk).
4. Invest in something other than your retirement-savings plan. Enrolling in your employer's 401(k) plan is a good start, but experts say that it may not provide enough to fund your future. It's smart to consider alternate retirement savings accounts, such as a Roth IRA, traditional IRA and/or health savings account.
You can also research low-cost index funds, which Warren Buffett recommends, and online-investment platforms known as robo-advisers.