Retirement planning takes course over a long period of time. Ideally, planning begins when you enter the workforce, which will give you more time to make sure you’re financially prepared for your retirement. Because this entire process could span 40+ years, it’s important to check in with your budget, retirement accounts and other investments regularly. Here are a few ideas for checking in at various points throughout your life.
Retirement Planning Checklist for Your Early Career (~age 22-26)
You just clinched your first full-time job, congratulations! In the midst of all the excitement of really starting your adult life, don’t let your employer’s benefits package get buried. After all, enrolling in a retirement plan is the first step to making sure you’re on the right track for retirement planning. Here are a few steps you don’t want to miss:
- Enroll in your employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) plan and set up regular contributions to the retirement plan. Keep in mind the differences between Roth and Traditional deferral contributions before making your decision.
- Make sure you are contributing at least as much as your employer matches. For example, if your employer matches up to 6%, your goal should be to contribute at least 6% so you will receive the full match. The employer match is free money for you – so make sure you’re taking advantage of this benefit!
- Build a budget and stick to it. Even living by a simple budget early on can help in your financial long-term planning.
Retirement Planning Checklist for Mid-Career Professionals (~age 35-50)
At the mid-point in your career, you’ll probably be making more money than you were when you were first starting out. This is the time to take another look at how much you’re contributing to your 401(k), and your overall finances. Here are some steps you can take:
- If you haven’t been doing so already, increase your contributions with a goal of 10 to 15 percent in mind. Your goal should be to max out the contribution limit each year.
- Consider other investment options – if you’ve already maxed out your contributions, consider planning for your children’s future. Open a 529 plan for each of your kids to save for college and education expenses.
- Do you have an emergency fund built up? If not, now’s the time to make sure you have rainy day funds tucked away. This can really help ensure you have funds ready if an emergency hits so you’re not tempted to dig into your retirement savings early.
Retirement Planning Checklist for Pre-Retirement (~age 55-64)
Depending on your family situation, you may have kids in college by this point, or are starting to come off the “parent payroll.” This could mean that your disposable income is increasing! When you know retirement is about 10 years away, you should be focused on making sure you’re putting your money to work in your retirement plans. Here are some other points to consider:
- Once you turn 50, you can start making catch up contributions to your retirement plan. Review your plan to see how much extra you can contribute, and try to max out that amount.
- Have you reviewed where or how your retirement account is invested lately? Younger adults typically take on more risk. Now that you’re nearing retirement, you should review your risk tolerance to determine if you should make any changes to a more moderate or conservative allocation.
- Eliminate debt, if you haven’t already. You don’t want to pay off large debts when you’re in retirement. Plan ahead and pay off as much debt as possible.
- Consider meeting with a tax advisor or financial planner to see what additional steps you can take to ensure you’ll be ready to retire when you decide it’s time.
Retirement Planning While You’re In-Retirement (~age 65+)
After you’ve retired, you won’t need to focus as much on saving for retirement. Instead, you’ll need to focus on managing the wealth you’ve accumulated, through budgeting and estate planning. But most important is to enjoy the retirement you’ve earned!