3 Retirement Planning Tactics to Adopt Before You Hit 50

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Well over half of Americans now in their 40s are at risk of experiencing a decline in their standard of living after they retire, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. But adopting the right retirement planning strategies at this phase of your life will help you avoid financial disaster in your golden years.

Here are three retirement strategies to deploy before blowing out your 50 birthday candles.

1. Price out a year of retirement expenses

It may sound obvious, but you have to start by figuring out how much it'll cost you to live in retirement. And to do that, you'll first need to define what you want your retirement to look like. Does your definition of happiness involve spending a large amount of time reading books on your porch? Traveling extensively? Volunteering? Or working part-time?

Then there are the more mundane financial items to consider. For example, will you have your mortgage paid off? How much will you require for living expenses and utilities? How much will you budget for health care costs and leisure?

How you answer these questions will define what income needs you'll have in retirement. But don't feel overwhelmed.

You can use Vanguard's retirement expenses worksheet to come up with a concrete number for how much money you'll be spending each year in retirement.

2. Figure out if you're saving enough

To know if you'll have a shot at being able to cover your retirement expenses, you need to calculate your retirement income. How much money will you receive from Social Security, pensions, and other sources of income? Do you intend to work part-time? How much income can you expect to receive from your 401(k)s and IRAs? Total up your anticipated income. Naturally, there are levels of uncertainty involved in any calculation made decades in advance, but it is possible to get a reasonably good idea of where you stand.

For help, take a look at Vanguard's retirement income worksheet.

Next, the moment of truth -- it's time to see how close you are to your dream retirement with your current savings plan.

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Check out Fidelity's Retirement Quick Check tool, which can project how much money you'll need, compare it to what you're on track to have, and identify changes you can make to address any shortfall. The tool also factors in inflation assumptions, so that you don't have that figure that out.

3. If you're coming up short, strategically redirect your dollars

If the gap between your expected sources of income and your future needs is sizable, the first thing you need to do is reassess your current spending, find places to cut, and redirect every dollar you can into your retirement accounts.

To help further close the gap, you have options. You can work longer and delay retirement by a few years. Consider downsizing your future plans -- for example, you can decide you'll do less travelin in retirement. If you're looking for ways to significantly decrease your pre-retirement expenses, you could sell your existing house and move into something smaller, especially if you become an empty nester.

In your 50s, you've got to make saving for retirement your No. 1 priority by putting your needs ahead of others'. It's a hard truth to face, but remember that there are alternatives for your dependents (e.g., loans for funding a child's college expenses). Retirement savings is all on you.

If you haven't already done so, consider seeking guidance from a financial planner who can provide you with recommendations that are more customized to your particular situation.

Don't wait another day

Retirement is getting closer each day. So make the most of the years you have left to save. By estimating your retirement expenses, identifying your shortfalls, and taking steps to redirect your dollars toward retirement savings, you'll reap the glorious reward of a truly golden retirement.

Motley Fool contributor Nicole Seghetti writes about personal finance, retirement, and investing. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleSeghetti.