A financially free retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning, saving, and a lot of preparation. If you start early, it’s not as hard as it sounds. But even if you’ve passed ‘the early stages’ it’s never too late to prepare for retirement.
Here are the top 8 ways to get yourself retirement-ready.
- Save now
If you haven’t started saving for retirement, now’s the time. It doesn’t matter how young (or old) you are. We know that it’s hard to think about retirement when you’re say 22 or 25-years old, but that’s the best time.
The more time your money has to grow, the more money you’ll have in retirement. As you make contributions, they will have earnings. Once your earnings start earning, you’re on the right track. Remember, a dollar today is worth a lot more 20, 30, or 40 years from now thanks to compounding earnings.
If you haven’t saved yet and you’re closer to retirement than not, take advantage of ‘catch up contributions.’ If you have an IRA, you may contribute an extra $1,000 per year if you’re over 50 and an extra $6,500 in a 401K.
- Reassess your Allocations
When you’re young, you can make aggressive investments. If the market tanks, you have plenty of time to recoup the loss, but if the market does great, your retirement account has even more time to let your earnings make earnings.
As you age, though, your risk tolerance changes. The closer you get to retirement, the less risk you can take simply because you don’t have the time to recoup any losses. Each year, reassess your allocations, using your goals and timeline as a judge.
Reallocate as necessary to keep your portfolio on track for your desired retirement without getting too conservative.
- Pay off Debt
You don’t need to debt-free when you retire, but bringing in too much debt isn’t a good idea either.
Take care of all credit card debt long before you retire. The high-interest rates take away from your retirement income, making it hard to stop working and/or enjoy retirement. If you can, pay off your mortgage before retirement too. This reduces your cost of living, making your retirement funds last longer. No one wants to outlive their retirement funds!
- Diversify your Investments
No one can predict the future. We know historically, looking back that the stock market usually has a positive return over 10 years, but what if it doesn’t? Crazier things have happened, right?
Diversifying your income so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket is essential. Investing only in the US stock market puts you at risk of a total loss. Instead, consider including bonds, commodities, real estate, and even foreign investments.
- Watch the Fees
Handling your retirement fund may seem overwhelming, so you happily hand it over to your 401K sponsor or an advisor. While the peace of mind is nice, the fees aren’t as nice. Figure out how much an account will cost you in commission, management fees, and other miscellaneous fees.
If you don’t before you know it, you’ll have less money available for your retirement because you lined someone else’s pockets to manage your investments.
- Lower your Cost of Living
As you get closer to retirement, look closely at your cost of living. Hopefully, your children are out of the house at this point, so that helps decrease your expenses quite a bit. But look closely at your other expenses. What else can you eliminate or lower to make it more affordable?
If you plan to travel the world, move to another part of the country, or start a business, figure out how it affects your cost of living. How much will you need and does it align with what you’ve saved thus far for retirement?
If your new plans don’t jive with the current savings, revamp your plan to accommodate the new plans.
- Have Insurance Plans in Place
No one likes to think of the worst happening, but it’s the only way to protect ourselves. Car, health, life, and disability insurance are all key components of your retirement plan. While you don’t want to go into debt paying insurance premiums, finding the right policies will protect your assets.
For example, if you fell ill or were injured and couldn’t work anymore, how would you save for retirement? Disability insurance may help supplement or replace your income so you can keep your retirement savings on track.
- Maximize your Contributions
The IRS allows employees to contribute up to $19,500 in a 401K account each year. On top of that, your employer may match your contributions up to a certain limit. At the very least, maximize your contributions to get the employer match.
For example, if your employer will match dollar-for-dollar up to 4% of your income and you make $60,000, contribute at least $2,400 to get the employer match. But contribute as much as you can in addition to it to keep the earnings growing.
Prepare for Retirement Today
No matter how old you are, it’s important to prepare for retirement today. Every step you take toward financial freedom today will benefit you in the future.
Think of your future rather than what you can have right now. It may seem like you’re sacrificing now, but you’ll appreciate the gesture when you’re in your golden years and ready to stop working. Adjusting your lifestyle, getting out of debt, and saving as much as you can as early as you can will set you up for the most successful retirement, no matter what life throws your way.