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Time as a timely financial commodity

Judging by the Time Is Money study, Americans also have a skewed view of how prepared they are for retirement but in a much different direction. On the one hand, 48% worry about how they’ll pay for expenses once they’re no longer working. But on the other, a good number are further along than they think.

Citing Empower Personal Dashboard data as of March, the survey notes that the average 401(k) balance clocks in at $291,810, jumping to $580,259 for people in their 50s nearing retirement age. That’s counterbalanced by the fact that 28% of non-retirees report having no retirement savings at all, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

However, when abundance is measured in terms of time, people's expectations get more realistic. More than six in 10 respondents (63%) said they would “feel wealthy” if they had enough time for family and friends. Nearly a third of Gen Zers (30%) would pay up to $5,000 yearly, or about $100 a week, to delegate cleaning, yard work and other tasks. And one in four people (26%) would take a 15% pay cut in exchange for more free time.

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Making time work for you

While some Americans will figure out how to make a half million dollars or more, the rest can’t simply soar into their golden years on wings and prayers. In 13 states, you’d land in the top 1% of all wage earners, according to SmartAsset.

Some in the retirement planning stage hope artificial intelligence will come to the rescue. One in five (21%) said they would use AI to recommend their money moves, while one in four (25%) would leverage it to help pay bills on time: And of course, owing less in late fees only leaves more to invest.

But until that becomes a reality, many Americans are being left to sort it out themselves. And catching up can feel impossible, especially if you’re well behind on saving. As nearly one in five told Empower, they would have worked with a professional sooner if given the opportunity.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to start. You may want to touch base with a professional financial adviser to put you on the right track.

Even just small contributions can make a big difference if you’re consistent — and so can a change in perspective. Half of the Empower respondents said they’d rather have a longer retirement with less money than retire later with more.

When it comes down to it, what you’ll actually need for a stress-free retirement varies from person to person. But once you land there, the feeling will undoubtedly be priceless.

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Lou Carlozo Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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