There's an underlying feeling of guilt that's expressed each time this statement is uttered. The implication is that the individual had the ability to save more for retirement but chose not to do so.
While it's ultimately the responsibility of each of us to make sure that we have sufficient funds to pay for our needs for the duration of retirement, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible in many cases, to achieve this goal without proper guidance. Saving for retirement requires a totally different mindset than saving for any other financial goal.
It's All about Income Replacement
Most financial goals require planning for the availability of a lump sum at a future date that will either be spent (a) one time, e.g., a down payment on a house or (b) over a specified number of years, e.g., college education. Retirement, on the other hand, typically requires you to replace one source of income, i.e., salary, or draw in the case of self-employed individuals, with multiple sources of income. Furthermore, the replacement income sources must be sustainable for the duration of retirement which is unknown.
You need to use the right tools for the job at hand if you want to achieve a successful result. Retirement is no exception. Given the fact that sustainable income is the name of the game, it makes sense that investments that are allocated for retirement are designed to provide you with a targeted amount of after-tax income that will meet your needs after other sources of sustainable income, e.g., Social Security, are taken into consideration.
Timing is Key
Fixed income annuities are well-suited for this purpose since they're designed to provide sustainable income for the duration of retirement. Deferred fixed income annuities, including fixed index annuities (FIAs) with income riders and deferred income annuities (DIAs) make the most sense due to the fact that they require the least amount of funds to generate future known income amounts compared to other types of investments.
Even though FIAs with income riders and DIAs allow you to minimize initial and ongoing investment amounts compared to other types of investments, the potential length of retirement requires you to start early if you want to generate enough income to meet your needs.
You simply can't begin saving a relatively small portion of your salary ten years before you plan to retire and expect your savings to provide you with adequate retirement income for 25 or more years. Age 45 isn't too early to start in most cases.
FIAs with Income Riders vs. DIAs
If you establish a sustainable income plan before age 55, I generally recommend investing in one or more FIAs with income riders vs. DIAs to provide you with the most flexibility. For starters, unlike DIAs which generally have fixed income start dates, FIAs don't require you to begin income withdrawals at a specified date. This is a distinct advantage when you don't know if you're going to retire at 60, 65, or 70 and you don't necessarily know all of your potential sources, timing, and amounts of other retirement income.
Additional funds can periodically be added to flexible premium FIAs that generally isn't possible with DIAs. Care must be taken, however, when researching these types of FIAs since some limit the number of years that additional premiums can be added or subsequent purchase amounts. See How Flexible are Flexible Premium Deferred Annuities?
Another benefit of FIAs is their accumulation value which can increase over time and provide a pre- and post-income withdrawal death benefit. In addition to the lack of an accumulation value, a death benefit with DIAs is generally optional and is limited to the amount of premium invested in exchange for a reduced income payout.
Finally, in addition to generating sustainable retirement income, investment in FIAs with income riders and DIAs reduces portfolio risk to the extent that funds from equity investments, e.g., stocks and equity exchange traded and mutual funds, are used.
In conclusion, it's not only about minimizing regrets regarding how soon you started saving for retirement when you're retired. Making sustainable income a cornerstone of your portfolio using investments that are suited for this purpose, i.e., fixed income annuities, will help you sleep better at night – before and after you retire.