Behind On Retirement Financial Goals?

If you’ve taken a look at the balance in your retirement savings lately and you’re feeling discouraged, you may not be alone.

Many Americans are far behind where they need to be. In fact, the average working household has virtually no retirement savings, according to the National Institute on Retirement Savings. The median retirement account balance is $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households.

And even those who have saved consistently for decades may, for a variety of reasons, come to recognize that they won’t meet their goals.

“It can be very sobering to be nearing retirement and realize you are short of where you want to be at this point,” says Rich M. Groff II (, a third-generation Certified Financial Planner.

But bemoaning your situation doesn’t help any. Groff suggests a few ways to avoid becoming discouraged anytime you’ve set financial goals and it’s becoming apparent that you’ve fallen behind on them.

Make sure your goal was realistic. Many things can get in the way achieving your savings goals. Perhaps you lost your job. Perhaps an investment didn’t work out as planned. But there’s also the possibility that the goal wasn’t realistic to begin with, Groff says. “If you want to accomplish your financial goals, there are a number of criteria for those goals you need to look at,” he says. “They need to be specific, measurable and relevant, and there needs to be a deadline. But goals also need to be attainable. You can’t just say that you want to save $1 million for retirement with no realistic way of getting there. So if you’re behind, take a look at whether the goal was ever attainable to begin with.”

Reward yourself. Sometimes a little pick-me-up can go a long way toward making you feel better if you’re falling behind on what you want to achieve. “Any time you have a financial goal, I think it’s a good idea to reward yourself with something along the way as you’re trying to accomplish your ultimate end,” Groff says. “For example, if there’s a goal you want to reach by the end of the year, you can treat yourself in some way at the midway point.” That could mean spending a weekend at the beach, attending a concert to see a favorite musician, or doing whatever gives you joy, he says.

Redefine your goal. When you realize you’re far behind where you wanted or need to be, the easiest thing to do is just give up. But with retirement planning, giving up isn’t a legitimate option, Groff says. “So if it’s becoming clear that you aren’t going to save the amount you wanted by the deadline you set, it’s time to redefine your goal,” Groff says. “Changing the goal or giving yourself more time is a lot better than abandoning the goal altogether.”

Groff says one of the best ways to stay on track with retirement savings – or any savings – is with an automatic deduction from your paycheck. The money can go directly into your savings or into an employer-sponsored retirement account.

“If you never have the money in your hand,” he says, “you aren’t so tempted to spend it.”

About Rich M. Groff II, CFP

Rich M. Groff II ( is a third generation Certified Financial Planner and entrepreneur. Although he has worked with people from all walks of life, he has focused his practice primarily around high income and high net worth professionals. Groff prides himself in assembling the best financial team to address and solve each individual’s needs, such as tax-reduction strategies, asset protection, legacy and business succession planning or estate-preservation techniques. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration/finance from Central Michigan University and obtained his Certified Financial Planning license from the College For Financial Planning.

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