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- It’s always a good idea to prepare for retirement years before you need to.
- By 50, you want to be maxing out your retirement accounts, paying off all your debt, and streamlining your expenses.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ah, retirement. To live the life you’ve always wanted after leaving the workforce – it’s the ultimate dream, isn’t it?
For people who are 50 and younger, now is the perfect time to put a little extra thought into your retirement planning.
Even if you’ve got a ways to go before retirement, there are plenty of things you can do right now to ensure that your financial goals are attainable by the time you do get there.
1. Try to max out your retirement accounts
While not saving at all for retirement is the No. 1 mistake you could make to prepare for this huge step, not maximizing the potential on your retirement accounts would also be high up there, Sophia Bera, CFP with Gen Y Planning told Business Insider.
If you don’t, you could be leaving money on the table with a match through your work or compound interest earned over the years.
By 50, “people should be aggressively saving for retirement,” said Bera.
2. Consider investing in a brokerage account above and beyond retirement goals
“Retirement is on the horizon, and it’s really important to not only maximize your retirement accounts, but you should also have a brokerage account that you’re automatically contributing to every month,” said Bera.
These types of accounts offer options and flexibility, so if you want to phase into retirement, you have an account to pull money from before needing to tap into your retirement assets, she said. Those retirement assets will be important to keep for later on down the road.
If you are considering this option, Laura McCamy previously reported for Business Insider that it’s better not to let your emotions rule your investment decisions, and it’s important to understand your overall investment goals to help you decide where to put your money.
3. Pay off all your debt, including your mortgage, if possible
The more you can reduce your monthly living expenses, the easier it will be to make your retirement savings last, says Bera.
High-interest debt should be the first to go. In fact, financial planner Ryan Cole previously told Business Insider, for people who have debt that costs more than 9% a month in interest and fees, it’s smarter to pay down that debt before putting money toward retirement.
That’s because the high interest rate makes the debt so expensive that it’s costing more than they could earn elsewhere, including in retirement accounts. (The exception to Cole’s rule is if their employer offers a 401(k) match – in that case, the smart move is to contribute enough to get the match, then devote any extra money to debt payments.)
4. Avoid taking on loans or other debt to help pay for your kids to go to college
As hard as it may be, think long and hard before helping family out if you don’t necessarily have the means to do so. If you haven’t spent the years saving up for your kid’s college, taking out loans to do so may not be the smartest option.
Experts say that children are most expensive in college and beyond, and that parents’ tendencies to bankroll their adult children can lead to disaster for their own finances down the road.
“Your children can take out student loans for college, but you can’t take out loans for retirement,” said Bera. “Don’t sacrifice your own retirement to help your family. The best thing you can do is secure your own retirement, and if you’re in a position later on to help family, then you can do that when you’re retired.”
5. Streamline your life and your expenses
By the time you retire, your life may have become very complex. If you can start now to simplify it so that you have a clear vision of retirement and you know how much money you’ll need to retire, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Of course, people who are 50 or older still have time to make essential changes today that can make a big impact on their retirement years.
For example, it’s never too late to log into your retirement accounts and increase your contributions, said Bera. “The best thing to do is start saving more … today!”