One of the arguments I hear when I talk to people about saving is that they are too old to make a difference. Whatever you can start saving now can make big difference
One big step is to forget the past and focus on the future. In some cases it was being irresponsible but other cases it was events you could not control (divorce, illness, death, etc).
What’s done is done. You can’t go back and fix the past.
If you look at your expenses and can find $10 a day to save, that adds up to $3,650 a year. Even if you think you can’t save that much if you save a little and work your way up. If you are married and each of you can save $10 a day that would be $20 a day or $7,300 a year. If start this when you are 52 years old, and save for 20 years and average 10% return you could end up with $461,947. If you both work for companies with a 401(d) plan $20 a day + 50% match would equal $30 a day x 365 = $10,950 a year. At 10% annual return for 20 years you would have $692,924 in 20 years.
The main key is watching how you spend your money. If you make a million dollars and spend a million dollars you are still broke. If you track your expenses for a week so you can see what you spend your money on and which ones can be eliminated. A dollar or two here and there may not seem like a big deal, but they do add up to a lot. If you control your spending everything becomes easier.
If you have credit card debt, the biggest problem is the interest growing all the time. If you are making only the minimum or a little more, each month your payment barely covers the interest charged for that month. If you keep going that way it can take you many years to pay it off even if you never charge any more on it. In some instances if you call the credit card company about it they may lower your interest rate. If they know you are having difficulty paying the amount you owe them, they may cut the interest rate if they know it will help you pay them the original amount you owed them. In many cases if you cut the interest rate then the debt becomes manageable.
But in order for this to work, once you start paying down your debt, you have to change your spending habits so you don’t get into major debt again. You have to deprogram the way you have been thinking about money. It is hard with all the advertisements for things to spend your money on.
It’s like training for a marathon, little steps at a time, instead of trying to do the whole thing all at one time.
One resource for information on this is “Start Late, Finish Rich” by David Bach.