Countless workers are planning to fall back on Social Security when the time comes to retire. But while those benefits will provide some income, they're not enough to sustain the average American. If your goal is to retire comfortably, then you'll need income outside of Social Security to cover your various expenses. Here are just a few sources to work on securing.
1. Withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k)
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Retirement plans like IRAs and 401(k)s are designed to help workers save for the future while reaping certain tax benefits along the way. Unfortunately, many adults aren't taking full advantage of these accounts. The median savings balance among households aged 56 to 61 is just $17,000, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute, and while workers in that age range could still conceivably have a few more years on the job ahead of them, that figure does paint a pretty bleak picture.
If you want to ensure an adequate amount of income in retirement, work on funding your IRA or 401(k) as early on in your career as possible. Currently, you can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA if you're under 50, or $6,500 if you're 50 or older. Better yet, aim to get as close as possible to maxing out your 401(k), assuming you have access to one. The current annual limits are $18,000 for workers under 50, and $24,000 for those 50 and over, but next year, these thresholds increase by $500.
2. Dividend stocks
Though all stocks can serve as a potential source of retirement income, an even better bet is to load up on stocks with a strong history of paying dividends. Though dividends technically aren't guaranteed, if you choose solid companies, you can mostly look forward to a steady stream of income each quarter for as long as you hold those stocks. Furthermore, dividend stocks are a good way to hedge against a down market. If the value of your portfolio falls during retirement, you may not need to cash out investments at a loss if you have enough dividend income coming in.
Though younger investors are typically advised to keep their bond holdings to a minimum, it pays to acquire bonds as retirement nears. Not only will you benefit from the relative security of bonds, but you'll get to collect semiannual interest payments that can serve as a critical source of income. Want to avoid taxes on those interest payments? Consider municipal bonds, where the interest you receive will always be tax-exempt at the federal level. And if you buy bonds issued by your home state, you'll avoid state and local taxes, too.
4. Part-time work
Some seniors leave the workforce feeling burned out and exhausted. Others, however, are eager to work part-time in retirement to secure some income without having to uphold the 40-hour schedules they formerly maintained. Not only will working part-time as a senior guarantee you a degree of income, but it'll help you avoid spending money by giving you a way to occupy your time. Furthermore, if you're the type who thrives on structure and being busy, having a part-time job to go to could help stave off depression, which seniors are more likely to fall victim to.
Many seniors opt to downsize once their adult children no longer live at home. But if you're maintaining a larger property, renting out a portion of it could serve as a key source of income during your golden years. This sort of arrangement is particularly feasible if you have a finished basement or attic, which would allow both you and your prospective tenant to maintain some privacy. Another option is to rent out your home seasonally, especially if you happen to live right off the beach or minutes from a popular ski mountain. This way, you'll only have to deal with tenants on occasion, and you'll probably manage to command a decent fee for that lodging. Best of all, if you rent out your home for 14 days or less per year, you won't have to pay taxes on that income.
Though Social Security can help pay the bills when you're older, you can't rely on it alone. The more income sources you have available in retirement, the more financially secure you'll be.
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