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Playing Catch-Up on Retirement

It’s time to direct attention toward saving for retirement. –Courtesy photo

As you think ahead to retirement, do you ever worry that your savings nest egg may come up short? If so, you aren’t alone. Many Americans are finding that they are not as prepared for retirement as they should be.

The good news is that if you’re employed, it means that you may still have time to get your retirement fund in order. Take advantage of your sense of urgency, favorable tax rules and your current paycheck to devote more toward retirement savings. Whatever you can afford to save today has the potential to make a difference once you retire.

“Catch-up” rules are helpful

Current tax laws tend to work to your benefit as you grow older, most notably “catch-up” contributions, which are designed for those 50 and older. At this age, you can contribute an additional $1,000 annually, or a total of $6,500 per year (or 100 percent of your earned income, whichever is less) in either a traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The maximum for those under 50 is $5,500 per year.

Older workers can save significantly more through their workplace retirement plan as well. While the standard limit for annual contributions through salary deferral for 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans is $18,000 per year, those 50 and older are allowed to set aside as much as $24,000 annually in these plans.

If you’re able to allocate more money to retirement starting at age 50, the impact on the total amount you have saved can be significant. If you “max out” your contributions to workplace savings plans and IRAs, that would amount to an extra $7,000 per year, or $14,000 annually for a couple. A couple that continued to save the extra $14,000 each year of work until retiring after reaching age 66 could put an additional $238,000 into their retirement plan. That does not factor in any market swings, including potential growth that may occur from investing those dollars.

Other reasons to be encouraged

As the clock ticks down toward retirement, there are other steps you can take to solidify your nest egg:

  • Calculate the amount you need to live the life you want in retirement and compare it to what you have saved. Be sure to include costs for living expenses, healthcare and pursuing your retirement dreams, such as traveling. This reality-check exercise allows you to create a plan for how to fill the gap between your savings and your dreams.
  • Many Americans reach their peak earnings years in their 50s and 60s. At the same time, you may be finished or almost finished with paying for your children’s college tuition or your mortgage payments. With lower living expenses, you may have the ability to devote a larger percentage of your income to retirement savings.
  • If you have contributed the maximum amounts to IRAs and workplace savings plans, you may consider investing additional money to your retirement. Ask your financial professional what other investment vehicles may make sense for your financial situation.
  • You can put money away in a health savings account (HSA) if you have the option in the health insurance plan you choose from your employer. Money in an HSA can accumulate tax-free if it is used to pay qualifying medical expenses either in the current year or later in life, including in retirement. In 2017, you can set aside up to $3,400 or $6,750 per couple in an HSA. Those 55 and older can contribute an additional $1,000.
  • If you spent time out of the workforce (such as a stay-at-home spouse), consider going back to work to generate income in the years before retirement begins. Along with increasing your current household income, it could boost your earnings record, which is the basis for Social Security benefits in retirement.

Saving for retirement can be overwhelming, especially if you think your nest egg may be insufficient. However, focusing even a little attention on your retirement fund today can help you feel more confident that you’ll have enough money to last.

May 15, 2017

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Sierra Madre Weekly


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