With politicians tossing around the idea of raising the retirement age to reflect an increase in life expectancy, workers of every age are likely wondering “Will I ever be able to retire?” The answer is “yes,” if you are smart about your money starting at whatever age you are today. Retirement savings is possible if you follow these tips:
It’s important to understand that seniors who retire in 2010 can claim the full Social Security benefit they are entitled to at age 66. For workers born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age will increase to 67. The commission tasked with designing a plan for deficit reduction is recommending that the retirement age increase by one month every two years. Meaning, in 40 years when today’s twenty-somethings are looking to wind down, they won’t be able to do so until age 68. Of course by that time, 70 will be the new 40 and you’ll be fabulous. But in the meantime, the best thing you can do is recognize the responsibilities and costs associated with the decade of life you are in right now. Whether you are 25 or 55, don’t let precious years of hard work go by without making the right moves for your retirement.
If you are:
In your 20s: You are likely plagued with a double whammy of low income and higher education loans, making the first few years of saving a bit difficult. Save as much as you can by continuing to live like a college student for a few years but don’t scrimp when it comes to health insurance. If you don’t take care of yourself now, there won’t be much of a retirement! It’s important to maintain a solid credit score or work on cleaning it up if it’s not very good. If your employer offers a retirement savings program, take advantage of it, even if just 10 percent of your paycheck gets deducted. The truth is, you’ll likely switch jobs a few times in the course of your career and you don’t want to hold off on starting a retirement fund until you’ve reached a reasonable tenure. Don’t depend on Social Security. Yes, you contribute to it now, but by the time you retire, it may not exist or at least not in the same form as we know today. Think of it as supplemental income, not a replacement for the safety net you should be starting now.
In your 30s: You’ve been working for a while and you have more financial experience than when you went on your first interview. Now is the time to use that expertise. Maybe you have been saving for something specific…a home, a nice car or the final payment on your student loan. But have you factored in big events such as a wedding or a baby? These moments can turn into a lifetime of debt if you aren’t prepared for such a drain in your finances. If you don’t have a retirement savings plan through your employer, consider an individual retirement account (IRA), so that those additional expenses don’t consume your entire savings thus far.
In your 40s: You are half way through your working days and may have been on cruise control with your retirement fund for the last several years. You check your accounts but might not be as active as you could be to optimize your return. Take some time to examine your income versus expenses and start setting goals for the next half of your work life. When you know what you want to accomplish financially, an expert can help you find the right programs that increase your chances of success. If your retirement fund seems insufficient, consider increasing your contribution to accelerate your savings.
In your 50s: You’re probably making more money now than ever before and the likelihood of expenses for big life events such as marriage and babies are greatly reduced, which should allow you to be more aggressive with your savings. Even though retirement is about 15 years away, you need to forecast the amount of savings it will take to make retirement comfortable. If you have been nurturing your fund, perhaps only small tweaks are needed. But if you are playing catch up, an overhaul of your finances may be necessary.
In your 60s: Good news! You’re still earning optimum money as you make your way closer to retirement and it’s likely that your mortgage is also winding down. But before you start dreaming of that Hawaiian vacation, consider the costs associated with aging. The cost to maintain your home may be replaced with the cost of health care or prescriptions, leaving little breathing room for a retirement fund that is not prepared to meet the cost of living. This may require being more active in balancing your portfolio or consolidating plans if you have funds from several places of employment.
In your 70s: It’s true that the longer your money can grow without the subtraction of taxes, the larger the balance will be when it’s time to withdraw. So if you really want to keep working, I won’t hold it against you. Participants in traditional IRAs and employee retirement plans must begin making minimum withdrawals by April 1 of the year after they turn 70.5. But the IRS allows those with a 401k or other employee retirement plans to delay their minimum distributions beyond that age as long as they continue to work.
For more resources on your quest for a successful retirement, visit the Social Security online retirement planner.