Financial decisions you make throughout your life can shape your retirement. In an ideal world, you'll start saving early for your later years and have a hefty nest egg by the time you're ready to leave the workforce. Unfortunately, that's not the reality for many people.
The good news is that no matter how close to retirement you are, there are still ways to shore up your finances. In fact, there are steps you can take to make your money stretch further, even after you've stopped working.
Here are four late-in-life techniques you can try to make sure you are as comfortable as possible once your paychecks stop coming.
1. Take advantage of catch-up contributions
Once you reach the age of 50, you become eligible for larger retirement tax breaks that younger workers don't have. Specifically, you can make catch-up contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts such as a 401(k) or IRA.
In 2021, for example, the annual 401(k) contribution limit is $19,500 for workers under 50, but those over this age can contribute an additional $6,500. If you're in your 50s or early 60s and are still working, aim to max out your retirement accounts, including catch-up contributions — especially if you're behind on retirement savings. The extra tax breaks you get will make investing enough easier, and large investments late in life can still do a lot to pad a nest egg.
2. Choose your retirement location strategically
Once retirement is in sight, you need to get serious about deciding where to live after leaving work.
If you want your money to last as long as possible and to enjoy the best quality of life, look for a low cost-of-living area with favorable tax rules for retirees. If you're worried about not having enough saved, finding an affordable place to live could be the single best thing you do to ensure you have a comfortable retirement with minimal financial worries.
3. Set a safe withdrawal rate
Before you leave the workforce and start taking money out of your retirement accounts, develop a strategy for how much you can safely withdraw.
Setting a safe withdrawal rate ensures your account won't run dry while you still need it. And it gives you an idea of how much income you'll have available as a senior so you can decide if you're ready to retire and make other important choices such as whether to downsize your home.
4. Research your health insurance options carefully
Finally, as you near retirement, you need a plan to ensure your healthcare costs are as reasonable as possible. Medical care is a huge expense — often the biggest — for seniors, but you can limit the amount you spend on it by looking into all of your insurance options, including Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans.
It's especially crucial to explore coverage options if you plan to retire before you've reached age 65 and become eligible for Medicare. But even if you'll be taking advantage of this government-run health program for your entire retirement, out-of-pocket expenses can add up to thousands of dollars per year. The better prepared you are to control these costs, the less risk you face of depleting your retirement account paying for healthcare.
These steps can be taken late in your career, or in some cases even after you retire. If you haven't checked them off your list, it's not too late. But get started as soon as possible — you have little time to waste with retirement drawing near.
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