A comfortable, financially secure retirement is a big part of the American dream for many people. It’s important to take care of your financial wellness throughout your life, and especially during your 50s and 60s, if you want to have that kind of dream retirement.
Financial wellness in the last decade or two before retirement requires a slightly different focus from when you were in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. Now it’s time to aggressively eliminate debt from your life, if you haven’t already, and save enough so that when you’re no longer working, you’ll still have enough income from your savings and investments to live the way you want.
Here are some financial wellness tips to help you navigate these critical pre-retirement years.
1. Take stock.
It’s important to have a clear picture of your financial well being, so take stock of where you are with debt, assets, savings, and income. Write down all your assets (home, savings accounts, investments, retirement accounts, etc.). Then list all your current debt and expenses, such as mortgage, rent, vehicle loans, etc. Next, take a look at your monthly budget. Are you consistently staying on track? Or is your current income already falling short of your financial goals?
Decide when you want to retire. The Social Security Administration provides an online chart to help you understand the age at which you can retire and receive full Social Security benefits (your full retirement age). When is yours? Knowing when you want to retire can help you plan the savings and debt-reduction steps you need to take, and when you need to make them to achieve financial wellness in retirement.
2. Attack debt.
In an ideal world, you would have managed debt flawlessly throughout life and be approaching retirement debt-free. But life happens and circumstances and recessions may have set you back. You’re not alone. According to the National Council on Aging, Federal Reserve data shows that more than 61 percent of households headed by someone 60 and older have some form of debt, with the median total being $40,900. Housing is the biggest portion of debt for households headed by people 55 or older, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Take steps to wipe out debt from your life. If you’re not sure how to reduce debt, seek financial education or the advice of a professional for help.
3. Boost retirement savings.
When it comes to saving for retirement, your 50s and 60s are crunch time, and federal law aims to help make it easy to maximize your retirement savings. A few years ago, the government increased the amount a person 50 and older can put into tax-advantaged retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s. If you’re in that age bracket, you can sock away up to $22,000 per year in your 401(k), and up to $6,000 in an IRA. These higher limits are intended to help you catch up if you weren’t able to save as much as you would have liked when you were younger.
If you’re not sure you’re saving enough for retirement, a professional financial planner can help you understand what you need to do, such as increase savings or reallocate assets. By working hard on financial wellness in your 50s and 60s, you can set yourself up for the kind of retirement you dream of having.