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5 Retirement Planning Moves for Late Starters

When you’re trying to build your nest egg, it’s best to start setting money aside as soon as possible. The longer you put it off, the less time your assets have to grow. If you wait too long, you risk not having enough cash to see you through your golden years. Getting a late start isn’t ideal but it’s still possible to build a comfortable retirement if you’re savvy about planning. Here are a few tips to get your financial future on the right track when you’re behind the eight ball.

Find out now: How much do I need to save for retirement?

Estimate What You’ll Need

Studies show that the majority of Americans are underprepared for retirement. Not only are workers failing to save enough but too few people have a realistic idea of how much money they’ll need to cover their expenses once they leave the workforce for good. Knowing what your target number is makes it easier to figure out how much you need to be saving in order to reach your goal.

Look at Your Savings Options

5 Retirement Planning Moves for Late Starters

There are lots of ways to fund your retirement and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you’re just getting started. Participating in an employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), is one of the easiest ways to save especially if your company offers matching contributions.

If you’re not eligible to participate in plan through your company, you can always chip in money to a traditional or Roth IRA. Traditional IRAs offer tax-deductible contributions while a Roth IRA gives you a tax break when it’s time to start making withdrawals. Self-employed individuals and small business owners also have additional options in the form of a SEP or SIMPLE IRA.

Related Article: Get Started With Retirement Planning

Know Your Limits

The IRS has different guidelines concerning how much you can put into each type of retirement account every year. It’s important to know what the limits are to make sure you’re maxing out your plan. For tax year 2017, the most you could put into an employer-sponsored plan is $18,000.

The limits for a traditional or Roth IRA are much lower, at just $5,500. The limit for a SIMPLE IRA is $12,500 but if you have a SEP IRA, you can put in a little more. Currently, the IRS allows you to sock away 25% of your net self-employment income, up to a max of $54,000 annually.

Take Advantage of Catch-Up Contributions

5 Retirement Planning Moves for Late Starters

If you’re over age 50, you may be feeling even more pressure to ramp up your retirement savings. Fortunately, you may be able to make catch-up contributions to your retirement fund, depending on the type of account you have. For tax year 2017, you’re allowed to save an additional $1,000 in your traditional or Roth IRA. The catch-up contribution limit for 401(k) plans, 403(b) accounts or a 457(b) is $6,000. You can put an extra $2,500 in your SIMPLE plan but there are no catch-up contributions allowed for a SEP IRA.

Cut Costs Now

The closer you are to retirement the more important it is to start getting your financial ducks in a row. Minimizing your expenses will free up additional cash that you can squirrel away in savings and it can give you some breathing room if you’re expecting your income to drop once you retire. While you may not need to do something as drastic as sell your home, getting rid of high interest debt and looking for ways to save on your everyday bills can make a big difference in how long your nest egg will last.

This might also be a good time to talk to a financial advisor. A financial advisor can help you determine how to maximize your retirement savings as you play catch up. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to up to three registered investment advisors who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: flickr/Matt Sapaula, ©iStock.com/Geber86, ©iStock.com/PonyWang

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake has been writing about the nuts and bolts of personal finance for nearly a decade. She is an expert in investing, retirement and home buying topics. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, Business Insider, CBS News, U.S. News & World Report and Investopedia. As a homeschooling mom of two, she's always looking for ways to make the most of every dollar.
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