8 Signs Your Retirement Savings Are Stalled — and How To Grow Your Money Again

retirement savings concept

Saving for your golden years isn’t always easy. If you recently checked your retirement account and were less than thrilled with the balance, you might feel a bit dejected.

Falling off course in your retirement savings plan can easily cause a panic, but try to remain calm. If you commit to making positive changes, you can get back on track.

Ready to revamp your retirement savings strategy? Use this advice to put your money back to work.

Also, see how much you need to retire in every state.

You Haven’t Increased Your Retirement Contributions in 2-3 Years

“If you haven’t increased your contributions, but you have received increases to your income, you may inadvertently be stalling your own retirement savings because you are living on more, but saving less as a percentage of your income,” said Nicole Strbich, CFP and managing director of financial planning for Buckingham Advisors, based in Ohio.

Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple solution.

“To fix this, you should set up an automatic increase annually to your plan — if available — or set yourself a reminder at the start of each year to increase your contributions by a percent,” she said. “If you match these contribution increases to your wage increases, you are more likely to be successful, since you don’t let yourself get accustomed to spending the funds instead.”

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You Unexpectedly Needed Cash and Stopped Contributing to Your Retirement Account

“If something like this occurred and you stopped contributing to your retirement account as a result, avoid letting this problem snowball and impact your retirement,” Strbich said. “Create a plan and a budget to move toward restarting your contributions — even if you have to start smaller and build back up.”

When you have a goal and plan in place to resume contributions, she recommended setting your contribution to automatically restart per your plan.

“If you are concerned this cash need will reoccur, start contributions back into another account to save these dollars in a special savings account,” she said. “Once you have that savings account built back up, restart your retirement account, and the next time this need happens you can handle it without impacting your retirement contributions.”

You Consistently Withdraw Fund From Your Retirement Accounts

“Such behavior often stems from an impulsive money mindset, which can be detrimental in the long run,” said Khwan Hathai, CFP, founder and financial therapist at Epiphany Financial Therapy.

To break this habit, she recommended changing the way you think about your finances.

“Reframing your relationship with money and recognizing the balance between present satisfaction and future security can help in making informed decisions that align with your retirement goals,” she said.

You’re Not Evaluating Your Portfolio

If your retirement savings isn’t growing, this could be a sign it’s time to shake things up in your portfolio, said Wilson Coffman, president of Coffman Retirement Group in Huntsville, Ala.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

“For example, in 2022, the S&P 500 was down 19.44%,” he said. “This meant getting your money back to even you were working with less funds.”

He said evaluating your portfolio is a key part of retirement planning.

“Ensure you’re properly diversified and comfortable with the amount of risk being taken,” he said. “You should be evaluating your portfolio at least once a year, if not once a quarter.”

Your Household Expenses Are Too High

“Sometimes high household expenses can cause you to put your retirement savings on the backburner,” Coffman said. “Due to inflation, the cost of living has gone up.”

Therefore, he said, you need to evaluate your expenditures and find ways to cut back.

You’ve Had a Lack of Progress for a Substantial Period

“If your retirement account has not shown any significant growth or, worse, [has] shrunk over the last two or three years, despite regular contributions and a growing market, this is a sure sign your retirement savings have stalled,” said Michelle Delker, founder of The William Stanley CFO Group, a boutique fractional CFO and financial services firm based in Tampa, Fla.

To grow your money again, she recommended revisiting your investment strategy and diversifying your portfolio.

You’re Paying High Management Fees

Unnecessary high fees attached to your retirement accounts can eat into your retirement savings, Delker said.

“Look carefully at the expense ratios of your mutual funds and the fees of your financial advisor, if you have one,” Delker said. “If they’re exorbitant, consider switching to lower-cost index funds or ETFs, or find a more cost-effective financial service.”

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You’re Not Investing

“The fear of market risk can lead some people to avoid investing entirely,” Delker said. “This can put their retirement savings at a standstill, since inflation will erode the purchasing power of cash over time.”

To stay invested over the long term, she recommend diversifying your portfolio in a manner that aligns with your risk tolerance.

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