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fifty_dollar_bill_finances(MCT)—Reaching the age of 50 can be a financial wake-up call.

If you follow the traditional retirement calendar, you have 15 years before you hang it up and begin to reap what you’ve sown during your savings years.

That’s not much time, especially if you haven’t saved enough in your early years. The amount you need to save quickly could be daunting. In fact, you might want to give up rather than trying to play catch-up after 50.

But Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz says it is never too late.

“I would not give up definitely at 50,” she says.

She ought to know. Schwab-Pomerantz, 54, is the daughter of Charles R. Schwab, chairman and founder of the pioneering discount brokerage firm.

Schwab-Pomerantz, who started working for her father when she was 16, is the author of “The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty,” which comes out April 1. She was in Dallas recently to talk about her advice for middle-aged Americans, as well as her desire to increase financial literacy.

“There’s a swath of people who haven’t been honest with themselves,” says Schwab-Pomerantz, a certified financial planner and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, which promotes financial literacy. “They have put their finances on autopilot and haven’t grabbed the steering wheel.”

In other words, many people know they have to save more for retirement, but they haven’t crunched the numbers to know exactly how much they’ll need compared with how much they have.

“Fifty is still fairly young, but it’s better to start (saving) earlier,” Schwab-Pomerantz says. “You have to be more diligent about saving than would have been the case if you had started earlier, but with discipline and resolve, you’ll be able to amass a retirement nest egg.”

Make no mistake: Starting later in life means you’ll have to sock away a larger percentage of your income each year.

First, figure out how much you’ll need for retirement and then create a concrete plan on how you’ll get there. Those who have a definitive plan save more than those who just pull a number out of the air.

“Understand how much you have to save each year to reach your goal,” Schwab-Pomerantz says.

Her advice for people of all ages:
—Figure out your net worth.
—Track your spending and make a budget.
—Reduce debt.
—Create an emergency fund.
—Make sure you have enough insurance for health and property.
—Create or update your estate plan.
—Organize your records.
—Review your investment portfolio.
—Set up automatic contributions to your retirement and savings accounts.