Money Moves to Make in the Decade Before You Retire

Money Moves to Make in the Decade Before You Retire Image

For most people, retirement seems like a faraway dream, something that will happen “one day.”

That faraway dream becomes a lot more real and far more serious the decade before you retire. 

It really is the most important decade for planning. It’s your last chance to get your affairs in order and make sure you have everything set up for a comfortable retirement.

Americans overall feel pretty good about their future prospects. A 2019 Gallup survey found that 55% of Americans 55 or older are confident they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement, the highest level since 2008, and a post-COVID survey showed their outlook remains mostly intact.

Still, it’s one thing to believe you’ll have a secure retirement and another to make sure it actually happens. These smart money moves to be made the decade before you retire can put you on the right path so that your faraway dream becomes a not-too-distant reality.


Figure Out What Retirement Means to You

Before you can get into the details, you need an idea of where you’re trying to go. After all, you’ve never retired before, If you haven’t thought about what you plan on doing after leaving the workforce, you can’t possibly know whether your savings are on track.

To come up with your vision of retirement, focus on the when, where and what. When would you like to retire? Where will you retire, in the same place as you are now or somewhere else? Finally, what do you plan on doing? Will you downsize your lifestyle, keep it the same, or travel more and take on new hobbies? 

If you have a spouse or partner, make sure that you have this discussion together. You don’t want one person expecting to stay in, say, Ohio with the rest of the family while the other plans on moving to Florida to golf every day. If you’re single, consider whether other people, like grandkids or a new partner, might enter your life over the next decade, potentially changing your plans.


Know Your Retirement Number

This number is how much you will need to have saved to fund your retirement lifestyle, and by now, you should have a pretty good idea of what it is. If you don’t, there are a few common rules of thumb for estimating that number, such as having 12 times your salary socked away, or enough money saved to generate at least 75% of your preretirement income annually. 

Everyone’s circumstances are different. I prefer an estimated retirement spending budget for categories like housing, food, travel and insurance. This is a better way and backs into the number once figure out your core expenses will be in retirement. I can help you with this.  

Also consider whether you might work part-time in retirement, especially if you can monetize something you enjoy. It’s a way to keep busy while supporting your retirement budget.


Give Your Savings a Checkup

The time to determine whether your savings will hit their target is now, when you can still do something about it if you’re likely to fall short. Ask a retirement planner to run the numbers for you. I can assist with this.

You can also keep tabs on whether you’re saving enough, based on the current balance of all your retirement savings accounts and how much you’re putting aside.Save as Much as You Can
This decade is your last chance to top off your retirement savings so take advantage of anything that helps you do that, including higher catch-up contributions for people 50 and over.

In 2021, you can squirrel away up to $7,000 per year into an IRA, instead of $6,000 for those who are younger.

If you have a 401(k) match, it would be criminal not to take it. However, beyond taking advantage of the employer match, there are better solutions, with less fess and risk to put your investment in. I recommends saving about 15% of your income during this last decade, with adjustments up or down depending on how close you are to hitting your retirement number.


Stop Spending on the Kids

If you have kids, the decade before you retire is usually when they head off to college and have other major financial needs, like buying their first home.

Warning: Don’t put your children’s needs ahead of your own retirement goals. Parents may rob themselves to pay their child’s college expenses. Big mistake. Your kids will have their entire lives to pay off their student loans. You don’t have that many years left to reach a stable position.

While it may seem like tough love, sharing the costs might help your children make the most out of their education, people are more accountable when they have skin in the game.


Don't Make Major Changes

One of the keys to a successful retirement is avoiding major changes. Keep the same house, the same car and the same lifestyle, New cars are expensive.Moving is expensive. All of these can place a huge stress on a retirement plan.

Although downsizing to another home occasionally makes sense, the numbers often don’t work out as well as people think. Many clients sell their home to free up money for retirement only to find, after moving costs, little capital remains for investment purposes, and they end up regretting their housing decision. Think carefully before planning any major life change for retirement.


Review Your Investment Portfolio

The closer retirement gets, the more conservative you need to be with your investments. These days, everyone thinks the stock market only goes up, but that is not always true and carries a lot of risk, I suggest owning enough fixed-income assets so that if the market abruptly drops 20% or 25% your net worth or retirement lifestyle won’t be seriously harmed. 

A quick way to estimate how much of your portfolio should be in equities with the rest in safer assets is to subtract your age from 120. So, for example, someone who is 55 would aim to have 65% in equities (120 - 55) and the remaining 35% in fixed income. The rule used to be 100 minus your age, but many financial planners now recommend adjusting the calculation to account for longer life expectancies. 

Unfortunately, today’s low interest rates are stifling returns for fixed-income investments like bonds, CDs and Treasuries. I suggest setting up an income annuity for when you retire instead. The annuity gives you guaranteed income each month to cover your nondiscretionary expenses so you can be more aggressive with the rest of your portfolio.


Plan Ahead for Taxes

You shouldn’t assume your tax rate will be lower in retirement. It could be, but many Americans primarily save through a traditional IRA or a 401(k), where withdrawals are taxable. Also it is very likely that tax rates will be increasing in the future.

While you could try limiting retirement plan withdrawals to keep your tax bracket lower, that might not be possible depending on your spending needs or your age. Once you turn 72, required minimum distributions kick in, and those withdrawals may be larger. Any extra income could push retirees in a higher tax bracket, and any Social Security dollars that were previously tax-free could become taxable.

One way to minimize your future tax hit is with permanent life insurace, where you can withdarw funds tax fress and also have a death benefit, you can also utilize a Roth IRA in addition to this . These accounts are funded with after-tax dollars today in exchange for tax-free withdrawals in retirement. Roth accounts can help retirees balance taxable income and spending needs without getting pushed into a higher bracket.


Make Sure Health Care Costs are Covered

It is estimated that the average couple will need $295,000 to cover medical expenses in retirement, not including long-term care. Although Medicare will carry most of the load, you’ll still owe premiums, deductibles, copays and potentially other out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and medical supplies.

If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, consider adding a health savings account and contributing as much as you can. Starting at age 55, you can contribute an additional $1,000 for up to $4,600 total in 2021. For family coverage, the limit is $8,200 if you’re 55 or older ($1,000 less if you’re younger). You’ll receive a tax deduction for your contributions today while saving for future health care expenses. 

This is also the time to consider how you plan to pay for long-term care. If you decide to buy a long-term care policy or an LTC-hybrid life insurance policy, you have a better chance of qualifying for it at a lower premium in your 50s. 

Last, consider what you would do if you are forced to retire before you are eligible for Medicare at age 65. What health care benefits could you access in the interim? Buying a plan on a health insurance exchange, extending your work coverage through retiree benefits or COBRA, or joining a spouse’s workplace plan may all be options.


Aim to be Debt-Free

Getting to retirement debt-free is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself. In that decade before retirement, start by targeting debt with the highest interest rates first, like your credit cards, and gradually work your way down the list until you’re free and clear.

This applies to your mortgage, too, although I see some pushback. People say if I can get a mortgage for 2.5%, wouldn’t it be crazy to pay it off? Not if you don’t need the money. Low-interest-rate debt is still debt, so pay it off if you can. It opens up options for you.

Plus, for retirees who typically don’t itemize their deductions and therefore can’t claim mortgage interest, there’s no tax advantage to carrying this debt.


Think About What Could Go Wrong

No matter how much you prepare, something inevitably doesn’t go as planned. It seems like every 10 years we have something nasty happen economically: COVID, the Great Recession, 9/11.
I recommend keeping at least six months of living expenses in liquid assets, like a savings account or CD, so you can manage these economic hits. Also, think of worst-case scenarios. For instance, consider how your retirement budget numbers will change if you have to retire several years earlier than planned.

Now is also a good time to consider how declining health might affect you or your spouse. People assume they’ll go through retirement in perfect health and then one day they just won’t wake up, but that’s rarely the case.

Who will handle your finances or make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself? What if you need full-time nursing care but qualifying for Medicaid would impoverish your spouse? Your estate plan should explain how you want to handle these tough situations. 

Take the time now to update your will, add a durable power of attorney if needed and include advance directives that provide instructions for end-of-life care. You should also consider how you’ll transfer assets to heirs, especially if your strategy involves purchasing life insurance.

As with any financial plan, the sooner you make these money moves, the better your chances are of enjoying that comfortable retirement you’ve always dreamed of.


I can help you Retire Happy! Contact me on my web page or email me at [email protected]

Sources: Kiplinger