While it's great to start saving early in order to take advantage of compounding, if you're nearing 40 or 50 and only have a paltry amount put away, don't panic. At this point, "the best thing you can do is to set a goal," Murphy says. "It may not be, 'I'll have three times my income by the time I'm 40,' but maybe it's 'I'm going to do what I need to do to have twice my income.' Sometimes that is a matter of making a few changes to how you spend your paycheck."
You can consider putting any windfalls, such as pay increases, bonuses or cash gifts from family members, directly into savings. "That's an opportunity to say 'I'm going to take this chunk of money and I'm going to put it in an IRA' or 'I'm going to take this bonus and I'm going to put it in my 401(k),'" Murphy says.
You might also want to consider delaying retirement by a few years in order to pad your savings, especially if you've taken time off to focus on other financial goals, such as buying a house, Murphy says.
If you aren't sure the best way for you to catch up, don't be afraid to ask an expert. "There is a wealth of knowledge available through employers, through financial experts, checklists and simple ways to help people start thinking about it," Murphy says.
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Here's how much you should have saved by 40