It’s assumed that most Americans will work 40-plus years before they can retire. But with market volatility, economic uncertainty and rising expenses, even that estimate is becoming more murky and problematic for boomers. Especially now that it’s not uncommon for retirement to last more than 30 years.
That’s why it’s so crucial for people to have a sound retirement plan that takes a step-by-step approach to saving and investing as they age, says Katie Libbe, vice president of Consumer Insights at Allianz Life.
She says boomers should look at each stage leading up to retirement with different strategies and goals in mind. “Although everyone’s situation is unique, there are a few key actions that people can take at each stage to help build a retirement portfolio meant to last as long as they do.”
Libbe goes on to say if you haven’t been a good saver prior to your 50th birthday, now’s the time to make saving and reducing debt your top financial priorities.
In advance of National Retirement Planning Week, Libbe offered the following retirement tips broken down by age to help boomers with their financial planning:
Early Boomers - Your Highest Earning Years (Age 50-55)
Branch out. Contributing to a work sponsored 401(k) is always a good idea, but consider branching out and saving independently of your job. Depending on your income levels, consider a Roth IRA or traditional IRA to take advantage of the tax benefits associated with those accounts. In addition, consider other opportunities for systematic savings that have no limitations.
Maintain a balanced portfolio. You still have more than a decade until retirement, so don’t play things too safe. While you might scale back the equity portion of your portfolio, asset allocation and diversification remain as important as ever.
Scrutinize your expenses and do some serious tax planning. With kids in college and life expenses mounting, it’s time to assess what’s truly necessary. Make sure that you’re hitting your savings maximums within your 401(k) and other retirement accounts, before you consider funding other things in your life. Also, seek out a tax professional who can help you take advantage of deferred compensation programs and manage the tax impact of capital gains/losses.
Middle Boomers - Transitioning to Retirement (Age 55-65)
Assess and build your floor. Consider protecting a portion of your nest egg through guaranteed income products. Try to determine your survival expenses – the non-discretionary ones like housing and health care. Plan to cover these with guaranteed income sources like Social Security, pensions and annuities. This is what financial professionals call “building your retirement floor.”
Consolidate accounts. Remember all of those separate 401(k) accounts you’ve had from previous jobs? Consolidate them into one account so you have a better handle on how much you have and how it’s allocated. Now is also a good time to consider potential options for any long term care or confinement needs.
Scale down and catch up. If your kids are gone and you don’t need the space, downsize. Even if your home hasn’t returned entirely to its previous value, you can save thousands in utilities, maintenance and taxes with a smaller home. If you’re older than 50, take advantage of catch-up contributions. These allow you to contribute thousands more to your 401(k) and your Health Savings Account (HSA) than younger workers.
Late Boomers - Staying Diligent (Age 65+)
Properly allocate your assets. As you age, adjust your equity allocations to levels that are age/risk appropriate. Avoid the temptation to take too much risk, or remove it entirely from your portfolio. Also pay attention to taxes. They play a big role in distribution planning and if handled right, can help your nest egg last longer.
You’re not done yet. Even as you approach retirement, maintain a strong focus on continuing to build your nest egg. Even with Social Security benefits, the average amount people have saved is insufficient to finance their retirement.
Retirement and Social Security can wait. Delaying retirement, even by a few years, can boost your nest egg and potentially make retirement far more secure and comfortable. The same goes for Social Security, delaying can mean higher benefits—you can get 8% more for every year you delay past your official full retirement age – up to age 70.