It’s never too soon to begin saving. However, the last decade prior to retirement can be crucial. By then you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of when (or if) you want to retire and, even more important, still have some time to make changes, if need be.
If you discover that you need to put more money away, Investopedia’s article “Top Retirement Savings Tips for 55-to-64-Year-Olds” gives you several time-honored retirement savings tips to consider.
- Fund Your 401(k) to the Max. If your employer has a 401(k) or a similar plan, and you aren’t already funding yours to the maximum, up your contributions. These plans are an easy and automatic way to invest, plus you’ll defer paying taxes on that income until you withdraw it in retirement. You may be in a higher marginal tax bracket now than you will be during retirement, because you’re in your peak earning years. As a result, you’ll see a smaller tax bill in retirement. This applies to traditional 401(k)s and other plans. If your job offers a Roth 401(k) and you participate, you’ll pay taxes on the income now but be able to make tax-free withdrawals later.
- Review Your 401(k) Allocations. Experts tells us that you should invest more conservatively as you get older, with more money in bonds and less in stocks. That’s because if your stocks drop in a prolonged bear market, you won’t have the time needed to recover. As a result, you may have to sell your stocks at a loss. Stocks still have growth potential and are a hedge against inflation, unlike bonds. Therefore, remain diversified in both stocks and bonds, but do this in an age-appropriate manner.
- Look into an IRA. If you don’t have a 401(k) plan to join at work—or if you’re already funding yours to the max—another retirement investing option is an IRA. There are two types: traditional and Roth. With a traditional IRA, the money you contribute is generally tax-deductible upfront. With a Roth, you receive a tax break later with tax-free withdrawals. Each has its own set of rules for contributions, so educate yourself on the differences.
- Know Your Sources of Income for Retirement. Your level of aggressiveness in saving also depends on the other sources of income you can reasonably expect to have in retirement. When you hit your mid-50s or early 60s, you can get a much better estimate than earlier in your career. After you’ve contributed to Social Security for 10 years or more, you can get a personalized estimate of your future monthly benefits using the Social Security Retirement Estimator. Your benefits are based on your 35 highest years of earnings, so they may increase if you continue working. Your benefits will also vary, based on when you start collecting them. You can start taking benefits as early as age 62, but they’ll be permanently reduced from what you’ll receive if you wait until your “full” retirement age (currently between 66 and 67 for anyone born after 1943). You can also wait and start getting your Social Security up to age 70 and see the largest amount possible.
- Don’t Mess with Your Retirement Savings. After age 59½, you can begin making penalty-free withdrawals from your traditional retirement plans and IRAs. With a Roth IRA, you can withdraw your contributions (not their earnings) penalty-free at any time. In addition, the IRS has an exception known as “the Rule of 55.” This waives the early-withdrawal penalty on retirement plan distributions for workers 55 and over (50 and over for some government employees) who lose or leave their jobs. This is a complicated rule, so speak to your estate planning attorney. It is important to understand that just because you can make withdrawals doesn’t mean you should, unless you absolutely need the money. The longer you keep your retirement accounts “in the bank” (up to age 72, when you must begin to take required minimum distributions from some), the better off you’re likely to be.
- And Remember the Taxes. When you make withdrawals from a traditional 401(k) plan or traditional IRA, you’ll be taxed at your rate for ordinary income—not the lower capital gains rate.
Reference: Investopedia (June 11, 2019) “Top Retirement Savings Tips for 55-to-64-Year-Olds”