Life may begin at 40, but the countdown to retirement starts at age 55. Now is the time to take stock of your savings, goals, and timetable for moving into a phase of life that may last 30 years. These questions can help you gauge how you’re doing.
When do you want to retire?? This is a crucial variable. If you’re planning to retire early—say, at age 55 instead of 65—you’ll not only have to save more, sooner; you’ll also need to have the money last an extra decade. On the other hand, if you expect to work well past normal retirement age, that reduces the burden on your nest egg. Another reason to keep working: While you normally can begin penalty-free withdrawals from an employer’s qualified retirement plan at age 55, distributions from an IRA before age 59½ may result in a 10% penalty.
How is your money invested? Though there are no guarantees a portfolio with most holdings in stocks holds the potential to grow more quickly than one emphasizing bonds or cash. But at this point, you won’t have much time to recover from market losses and may need to reduce your allocation to equities. That, in turn, could affect when you’ll have sufficient savings to leave the work force.
What will you get from Social Security? Government payments may make up only a small percentage of your retirement income, but this variable, too, needs to be part of your retirement calculations. How much you receive depends on several factors, including when you were born and when you apply for benefits. Payments could start as early as age 62, but if you begin then, your checks will be smaller. Wait a couple more years (if you were born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66) and your checks will be larger. If you live a long time, the bigger monthly checks will more than make up for the few years you did not collect up front.
How’s your contingency planning? An unexpected job loss or serious illness could hurt your retirement plans, draining savings just when you need to be putting away as much as possible. If you have a cash cushion you can draw on in emergencies, it could stem the damage—but if you don’t, build your reserves now. And you may want to invest in long-term care insurance.
How much will you need during retirement? Though rules of thumb suggest you’ll need 70% to 80% of your current income to live comfortably after you leave the work force, the amount you should set aside depends on several factors, including the age when you expect to retire, your anticipated housing costs and other living expenses, and how healthy you are. To be effective, your retirement plan needs to take into account many interrelated variables. We can help you evaluate many possible scenarios, and if you’re in danger of falling short of your goals, we can work with you to get on track before it’s too late.
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