Prepare: Retirement

Whether retirement is a few years or decades away you have the power to be prepared. These steps outline what is most advisable as you progress closer and closer to those golden years.

In your 20’s

  • Save a penny for a rainy day. Start an emergency fund – you should have three to six month’s pay saved up in case you run into financial surprises.
  • Though you are not thinking about retirement yet, if your company offers a 401(k), sign up. Contribute at least the minimum percentage needed to qualify for the full employer match – you will get the most out of your employer benefits this way.
  • Be financially prudent. Limit yourself to just one credit card, and pay the entire balance monthly. If you have an outstanding balance on credit cards, pay as much as you can as quickly as possible, starting with the highest interest card first
  • Make a budget – and stick to it.
  • Work on paying down any student loan debt
  • Check your credit report to make sure there are no discrepancies. It is important to know your baseline score, and make adjustments if necessary

In your 30’s

  • Take a look at how your 401(k) or IRA money is being invested – at your age you may be able to afford more aggressive investments as you have many years before retirement
  • If you’re buying a home, put 20% down to avoid the cost of mortgage insurance. Your mortgage payment should be no more than 28% of your monthly income. These two benchmarks assure that you buy smartly
  • Especially if you’ve started a family, take steps to protect them from the unexpected. take out a disability income insurance policy and life insurance policy if you don’t already have one.
  • Make sure you have enough homeowners and auto insurance – and check on discounts for using the same company for both.
  • Work with a lawyer to establish a will, and to address any other estate planning needs you may have. Working on your will is not only a way to address your estate planning, but will force you to answer some questions you didn’t even realize are out there.

In your 40’s

  • Review your life insurance policies to be sure you have the right amount of coverage and the right type as your needs may have changed. What you needed in your 30’s is not likely the same as what you will need in your 40’s.
  • Explore options for long term care insurance – buying young gives you more options for better coverage at better rates.
  • Take a look at your 401(k) plan or IRA investments.  Your investment objectives may have changed as your life has undoubtedly changed.  Update your investments to better reflect your goals.
  • Give your credit report another solid “once over” to be sure it reflects a true statement about your money management habits.
  • Make sure you are adequately covered with life and disability insurance. Be sure to check what might be offered by your employer as part of your benefits package.

In your 50’s

  • Revisit your retirement savings goal to make sure it still makes sense, and that you are on the right plan to reach that goal.
  • If you are behind on savings, you can catch up by taking advantage of higher contribution limits in 401(k)s and IRAs.
  • Review your estate plan to make sure it is up to date with changes in your life and current laws. Confirm your executors are the ones best suited to carry out your desires.

In your 60’s

  • Consider your retirement income strategy. Determine whether you can live off of a small percentage of your retirement assets and continue investing the majority.
  • If you earned a traditional pension, compare the payout options and make sure your choice doesn’t exclude you from other retiree benefits.
  • Find out when you can receive your full Social Security benefit – you may want to hold off on collecting your benefit up to age 70 to increase your monthly payout.
  • Get yourself ready to enjoy your upcoming retirement in every way, not just financially.

In your 70’s

  • If you have a traditional IRA from which you have yet to make withdrawals, you must start taking money out by age 70.5 to avoid a large tax penalty.
  • Start collecting Social  Security at age 70 if you have chosen to delay your benefits.
  • Consider how you want to be remembered. Revisit your estate planning and consider your plans for inheritances and gifts to charity.