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Retirement Planning at Every Age
Whether retirement is right around the corner or decades away, being strategic about investing and saving for that time can help set you up for a comfortable lifestyle once you stop working.
Unfortunately, research finds that many Americans underestimate their life expectancy and, therefore, don't save enough for retirement. Although the current life expectancy is 77 years, many Americans will live much longer.
Here are key factors to consider as you invest in your retirement in each decade of your career and aim to maximize your savings and retire comfortably.
In your 20s.
Retirement might seem too far away to concern you at this point, but this is when you can be most aggressive with your investments. Market volatility won't affect your savings as much because you won't cash out your funds for decades. A target date fund is an option that automatically chooses a mix of investments, with risk calculated based on your expected retirement date.
Another benefit of starting your retirement savings as early as possible is compound interest. When you receive interest on your investments, those earnings begin earning interest, and you can save a significantly greater amount over time. So, even investing a small percentage of your income can yield surprisingly high earnings in the long run.
You also might not yet have financial obligations that come with marriage and a family, which could free up some income to set aside for retirement. If your employer offers a matching program, it's in your best interest to contribute the minimum amount to obtain the match. If you can max out your contribution, however, you'll put yourself ahead of the game before life's major expenses cause you to pull back a bit.
If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, that doesn't mean you can't start saving. Look into an individual retirement account (IRA) to begin investing for your future.
[Related: Taxes in Retirement: Three Tax Planning Tips]
In your 30s.
Two important warnings as you enter your 30s: If you haven't started contributing to a retirement account, start now. Waiting any longer could put you at risk of not saving enough for retirement or having to contribute a larger percentage of your income later in order to save enough. If you have been contributing to a retirement account, don't cash out unless you're in a situation where there are absolutely no other options. You will end up paying taxes and a withdrawal penalty — and you'll also deplete savings you worked hard to secure in your 20s. Even if you're given the option to withdraw, possibly because you're changing jobs or need to take a hardship withdrawal, it's in your best financial interest to keep that money where it is.
In terms of investment choices, you still have plenty of time to recover from market fluctuations, so you can still tolerate a bit of risk and aggression in your investments. Beyond this point, as you get closer to retirement age, you'll want to get a little more conservative because you'll have less time to bounce back from market lows.
In your 40s.
You may now be earning a higher salary — and you'll likely have many financial demands to balance. To stay on track for securing a comfortable retirement, try to resist the temptation to spend more just because you have the means. Staying conservative in some areas of spending will allow you to continue steadily contributing to — and earning interest on — your retirement savings. In fact, as your income increases, it's wise to look into increasing your retirement savings contributions rather than spending more elsewhere.
This is a good time to plug your numbers into a retirement planning calculator to estimate how you'll need to adjust your investing and saving strategy to meet your goals. Check with your retirement plan provider to see if they have a calculator they recommend.
If you have kids, you also might feel conflicted between saving for college for your children and saving for your retirement. But consider putting yourself first. Although that might be tough for a devoted parent to do, there are many financial aid options for college. If you want to retire and still live a comfortable lifestyle, you are the one who needs to fund that. Of course, it's ideal if you can afford to contribute to both. But if you can only afford to focus on one, focus on your 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or other retirement plan.
[Related: Getting Ready To Retire? Check These Financial Tasks Off Your List]
In your 50s and 60s.
As you near retirement age, you might see a gap between your desired savings and what you've actually saved. Now is the time to catch up, if possible. Once you turn 50, retirement plan contribution limits increase an additional $7,500 per year for your 401(k) and $1,000 per year for your IRA. You'll also want to be more conservative with your investments because market fluctuations will have a greater effect on your retirement account the closer you are to accessing your funds.
You can begin taking withdrawals from your IRA and 401(k) at age 59½ without incurring penalties. Don't count on accessing your retirement accounts before reaching that age.
If you haven't already, now is the time to focus on paying off debts and setting aside a fund for medical emergencies. The last thing you want when you've spent your whole career preparing for retirement is for your savings to be wiped out by one unexpected medical event or to have to allocate a large chunk of it for debt repayment. Medicare doesn't start until age 65, so it's wise to consider the cost of medical insurance in your retirement plan before that age.
Although you can start collecting social security at age 62, you won't receive full benefits unless you wait until your full retirement age (FRA). For each year you delay collecting social security past your FRA, up to age 70, you'll receive an 8 percent increase, so it's beneficial to hold off. It's also worth noting that funding for social security (and Medicare) is set to run out in the next decade. So, if your retirement date is beyond 2033, your benefits won't be determined until the federal government decides how to fund those programs.
In your 70s.
Once you turn 73, you must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your retirement fund. One exception is if you're still working for an employer at that age; in that case, you may be able to delay withdrawals.
Even if you've set up a retirement plan and made regular contributions, establishing a budget for living on a fixed income after you stop working can be a challenge. Please feel free to reach out to our office with any questions about investing or saving, or for help strategically using your savings during your retirement.
[Related: Your Emergency Fund: Don't Live Life Without It]
After thirteen years of experience in the financial services industry, Beata Dragovics opened her own firm, Freedom Trail Financial, LLC, an independent boutique wealth management firm in Boston that works extensively with executives and professionals from various pharmaceutical and biotech firms.
Investments in target-date funds are subject to the risks of their underlying holdings. The year in the fund name refers to the approximate year (the target date) when an investor in the fund would retire and leave the workforce. The fund will gradually shift its emphasis from more aggressive investments to more conservative investments based on its respective target date. The performance of an investment in a target-date fund is not guaranteed at any time, including on or after the target date.
This material is intended for informational/educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice, a solicitation, or a recommendation to buy or sell any security or investment product. Please contact your financial professional for more information specific to your situation.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Owner & Principal
Freedom Trail Financial, LLC
Beata Dragovics is the founder of Freedom Trail Financial, an independent wealth management firm helping clients with equity compensation strategies to maximize their company stock and option holdings. Beata works with life sciences professionals to develop comprehensive and customized financial planning, investment management, and equity compensation solutions that are tailored to help achieve professional, financial, and personal goals. As the principal and a financial advisor at Freedom Trail Financial, Beata is a continuous resource to her clients... Continue Reading
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