With the new year right around the corner, many Americans are making financial resolutions. When it comes to long-term savings, putting more money aside for retirement is a top resolution, according to an annual survey by Fidelity Investments.
“This year it really, really stood out,” says Ken Hevert, senior vice president of retirement products for Fidelity. The firm found 64 percent of those focused on long-term goals said their 2017 resolution was to save more for retirement, up from 53 percent last year.
Here are 12 practical steps you can take to stick to your resolution to save more and improve your chances of a happy retirement.
Max out your 401(k) match.
Hevert recommends people contribute 15 percent of their pre-tax income to retirement savings. “That can feel very large,” he says. However, some employers match contributions to 401(k) plans, which can make it easier to hit that 15 percent goal.
Take advantage of catch-up contributions.
Older workers can make up for lost time by adding catch-up contributions to their 401(k) or an IRA. At age 50, people can contribute an extra $1,000 to an IRA or an extra $6,000 to their 401(k) and get an additional tax break.
Reduce your debt.
It’ll be easier to save money for retirement and to live comfortably once you get there if you reduce your debt now. While there are multiple ways to approach debt repayment, starting with the account with the lowest balance can help increase your momentum, says Chris Hogan, author of “Retire Inspired: It’s Not an Age. It’s a Financial Number.” “When people attack the smallest first, they start to feel good about it and build confidence.”
Diversify your retirement income.
Elizabeth Revenko, a senior financial planner with Mosaic Financial Partners in San Francisco, says it’s important to have money coming from multiple sources in retirement. “It’s good if you have pools of money that don’t all have the same tax on them,” she says. That may mean having some money in stocks, which are subject to capital gains tax, traditional retirement accounts that are taxed as regular income and Roth accounts, which have tax-free withdrawals.
Convert your traditional accounts.
If you currently have all your money in a traditional IRA, one way to diversify is to convert part of the balance to a Roth account. Since taxes must be paid on the converted amount, Revenko says a low-income year is a good time to make a conversion.
Stop stressing about the stock market.
Hevert says he often hears people wondering if now is the right time to get into the market. “The answer is always yes, particularly when you have a long-time horizon,” he says. Rather than worrying about whether the timing is right, people should be investing as soon as possible to maximize their gains by retirement.
Build an emergency fund.
One way to eliminate stock market worries is to build an emergency fund. “So if something happens, you’re not tapping into your retirement fund,” Revenko says. Should the market tumble right as you retire, you may be able to ride out the downturn by using money from the emergency fund.
Pare down your cost of living.
From easy changes like eliminating the morning latte to more extreme options such as selling the house, reducing your cost of living can be a good way to free up money for retirement. Hogan says lifestyle adjustments can seem overwhelming, but adds “It doesn’t have to be permanent for the rest of your life.”
Learn the Social Security rules.
Retirees as young as 62 can begin receiving Social Security benefits, but you’ll get more by waiting until your full retirement age or even delaying the start of benefits until age 70. The ideal time to start benefits will depend on several factors including your health and marital status. However, don’t wait until you’re in your 60s to figure it out. “Consider not just yourself, but the impact on your spouse,” Revenko advises.
Start saving for health care.
Health care expenses in retirement can be a scary unknown for some people. Those with an eligible high deductible health insurance plan can start preparing by placing money in a health savings account, but everyone can take steps to avoid chronic illnesses and other medical conditions. “Saving for health care expenses is a very tangible thing you can do,” Hevert says. “But also manage your health.”
Invest in yourself.
While they may not seem like money moves, taking time to hone skills, expand education and network with colleagues can all pay dividends. Doing so may lead to a better job and income, which can translate into more money for retirement.
Make an appointment with a planner.
Meeting with a financial professional is another smart strategy to help you meet your retirement savings goals for 2017. “It’s so important that we get the right kind of guidance,” Hogan says. “Small tweaks can lead to large gains.” Professional advice may be just what you need to pinpoint exactly how to make this year the one in which your retirement savings plan falls into place.
Article Created by: US News & World Reports