Have you fallen behind on your retirement savings?

Few things are more important for individuals than building a sufficient nest egg to carry them through their golden years. However, the national recession left millions of older Americans with diminished investment and savings account balances, due in large part to significant stock losses and unemployment. To make matters worse, a large percentage of homeowners faced falling home values and a higher cost of living.

These combined scenarios have made it difficult for many Americans who are approaching retirement age to build a healthy savings account. According to a recent AARP survey, nearly half of participants over 55 have only saved $50,000 or less for their golden years, putting them at risk of falling short on funds in the future. In addition, the same percentage said they are not currently contributing to a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or individual retirement account.

There are several factors that may be contributing to Americans’ lack of retirement savings. Many adults fail to get serious about padding their accounts until their children leave home, according to AARP.

The broken economy has prompted many young adults to stay at home for longer periods of time and entire households with families of their own to move back in with parents. In other cases, older Americans who are nearing retirement age may lack significant financial resources due to the recovering economy, or are struggling to pay off debt.

Regardless of the reason, retirement planning is the only way for pre-retirees to ensure that they will live comfortably as they age and have the resources to meet their needs. The good news is, it’s never too late to start saving for the future. Adults can begin by consulting with a credit counselor or financial adviser to map out their future finances and make positive changes to their spending patterns. Depending on their current financial position, this may be as simple as reorganizing their current budget and cutting back on luxuries. In other cases, adults may consider downsizing to a smaller home, a more affordable vehicle and eliminate other costly items that eat into their income.

Lastly, it’s crucial that older adults take advantage of the resources available to them. For example, those 50 and older can start utilizing catch-up contributions to contribute more than the maximum to retirement accounts. The IRS allows them to put an additional $5,500 toward a 401(k) or IRA each calendar year. These small allowances can make a big difference when it comes to saving for the future.