Year-End Retirement Planning: 5 Things to Check Off Your List

Year-End Retirement Planning: 5 Things to Check Off Your List

NOTE: This article was last updated on January 15, 2019, to include provisions of the SECURE Act passed into law December 20, 2019. 

Whether you’re a young professional beginning to save or you’re nearing your retirement date, this is the time to review your retirement savings progress and adjust your approach for the new year. Here are five things to keep in mind as you prepare for another year of retirement saving:

1. Review your retirement goals.

You may have set goals when you first started saving for retirement. Whether that was last year or 20 years ago, the new year is a great time to revisit those goals.

Ask yourself: Am I still on track to meet my savings goals? Did I save as much as I planned to this past year? If the answer is no, you may not be too late to adjust your contribution for the remainder of this year. It’s a great time to adjust your contribution for the upcoming year.

It’s also a time to revisit your beneficiary designation to determine if any changes are necessary. For instance, if you have recently married or divorced, you may want to update your beneficiary for your retirement accounts.

2. Rebalance your investments.

The financial markets endured many ups and downs throughout this year so it may be necessary to adjust and rebalance your asset allocation strategy. Take some time to review and make these changes to ensure you are staying consistent with your goals.

3. If you’re still working, maximize your retirement savings and take advantage of your employer’s match.

As a new year begins, contribution limits change. Get a jump start on saving for the new year by increasing your deferral percentage in your 401(k).

Investing the maximum amount with regular contributions will allow you to take advantage of dollar cost averaging. Don’t forget about your employer’s matching contribution. Are you contributing enough to get the full matching contribution being made by your employer?

The elective deferral contribution limit for 2020 has increased by $500 to $19,500. If you are age 50 or older during the year, you can contribution an additional $6,500. Contribution limits for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) have not changed and remain at $6,000 and those who are age 50 or older during the year can contribution an additional $1,000.

4. If you’re approaching 70 ½, start planning to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).

Keep in mind, once you turn age 70 ½, you may be required to take a minimum distribution from qualified retirement plans. RMDs are required at age 70 ½ from IRAs. Failure to take RMDs by your required beginning date may result in an excise tax (penalty) so carefully review whether a RMD will apply.


Since the publishing of this article, the SECURE Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019 which includes a change to the timing of RMDs for those who have not yet attained age 70 ½ or who have not yet commenced RMDs.    

Effective for distributions required to be made after December 31, 2019, the Required Beginning Date for Required Minimum Distribution, for non-5% company owners, is April 1 following the later of the calendar year in which the employee attains age 72 or retires. For an employee who is a 5% owner, the Required Beginning Date is the April 1 following the calendar year in which the employee attains age 72, even if the employee continues to work past age 72. 

If a participant dies before the Required Beginning Date and the spouse is the participant’s beneficiary, the spouse will be able to delay distributions until the December 31 of the year in which the decedent would have attained age 72. 

5. Meet with a Financial Advisor.

If you’re looking for ways to minimize tax liabilities, construct an effective asset allocation strategy, set new goals, or even just gain confidence about your retirement savings plan, consider meeting with a Financial Advisor. As you are preparing for the new year, this is a great time to determine your need for a Financial Advisor to help you to attain your goals.

While it’s important to consider your retirement savings plan year-around, formally revisiting your goals and strategy annually and keeping these five tips in mind will help you stay on track to a comfortable life in retirement!

Jenny Carter

Jenny Carter

SVP, Managing Director, Institutional and Client Services (515) 245-5245 Email Jenny

Jenny Carter is SVP, Managing Director, Institutional and Client Services in the Wealth Management Division at Bankers Trust, where she provides oversight for qualified and nonqualified retirement plan administration. Jenny holds a Retirement Plan Associate (RPA) designation through Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), and Fellow, Life Management Institute (FLMI).

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