Here are a few tips to consider at different phases of life to make sure you are on the right track to retirement readiness.
If you're in your 20s, you may have just graduated college or gotten your first full-time job. Once you've set a budget and created a plan to pay off any college debts, think seriously about how you can save some of your paycheck for retirement. This is important because you can let compound interest go to work for you. Each dollar you save now has the chance to grow larger over time. Do some research online or consider meeting with a financial advisor to get started.
In your 30s, your career is coming into shape and you may have even hit some milestones, such as buying a house or starting a family. Being more established means having some additional resources — but also greater financial responsibilities. Don't let new expenses like a mortgage put a stop to your retirement savings. Now is the time for building a long term financial plan. With a growing family, consider how to keep contributing (and increasing when possible) into your retirement savings account and while also setting up a life insurance plan and starting a college fund for your children. Doing these things now can help keep you from dipping into your retirement funds down the road.
In your 40s and 50s, retirement suddenly doesn't feel like such a foreign concept. At this point in your life, you likely have a stronger hold on your day-to-day finances and general expenses. Take that knowledge and use it to strengthen your retirement savings. Rather than focusing on a big nest egg number, start to think in terms of retirement income. You know how much money you need to cover your costs now, so think about how you should be saving to continue to meet those needs, wants and wishes each month, but without that regular employer paycheck. This may require adjusting your expectations or even delaying retirement a bit to make sure you can achieve your spending goals. You'll also want to consider how health care costs and Social Security benefits play into the picture. As you near your target retirement age, you'll also want to make sure your investments align with your risk tolerance. Generally, the closer you get to retirement, the more conservative your portfolio should be.
After years of planning and saving, you're hopefully able to reap the rewards of retirement. Make sure to monitor your accounts and factor in unexpected expenses so that you can adjust your withdrawals accordingly. Also, make sure you're taking full advantage of your Social Security benefits by understanding when it's best for you to start claiming them. You can elect to start receiving your benefits as early as age 62, but by applying before your full retirement age, you risk receiving a reduced benefit. This is a great time to work with a financial professional or tax specialist who can explain your options.