Once you reach your 60s, retirement is pretty much right around the corner, and the last thing you want to do is leave the workforce before getting your financial house in order. Here are six critical money milestones you should aim to reach during your 60s that will set the stage for a more secure retirement.
1. Have a fully loaded emergency fund
When you're in the latter stage of your career, the last thing you want is for an unplanned bill to wreak havoc on your near-term finances. That's why it's important to have a healthy emergency fund in the years leading up to retirement. Having three to six months' worth of living expenses in the bank will help you avoid debt later in life, and will also buy you a degree of security as you contemplate the notion of giving up your steady paycheck.
2. Have 10 times your ending salary in a retirement account
There's no single savings number that guarantees you won't run out of money in retirement. That said, as a general rule, it's smart to enter your golden years with roughly 10 times your ending salary in an IRA or 401(k). This is a good way to ensure that you have enough replacement income to cover your bills, keeping in mind that while Social Security will serve as a steady income source, it'll only be enough to replace about 40% of the average worker's pre-retirement earnings. Since most seniors need roughly double that amount to live comfortably, the rest will need to come from you, so the more savings you have, the better.
3. Pay off your mortgage
Though a mortgage is a typical expense to bear during your working years, it's something you should ideally manage to shake by the time you retire. The reason? Once you stop working, you'll be limited to a fixed income, and you're better off not having a mortgage payment around to eat up a substantial chunk of it. Unfortunately, an estimated 30% of seniors 65 and over continue to carry mortgage debt, so if you're able to make extra payments in the years leading up to retirement, you'll be more likely to knock out that home loan before closing out your career.
4. Eliminate credit card debt
Though carrying mortgage debt into retirement is far from ideal, it can at least serve as a tax break, since mortgage interest is deductible on your return. Credit card debt, however, offers no benefit whatsoever, and it can be extremely costly given today's exorbitant rates. Therefore, if you've managed to rack up some credit card debt, you'd be wise to pay it off before making your retirement official. In fact, if forced to choose between paying off your mortgage versus your credit cards in time for retirement, go with the latter. Chances are, your credit card is charging at least double the interest rate you're paying on your mortgage, which means the longer you carry a balance, the more money you stand to throw away.
5. Buy long-term care insurance
It's estimated that 70% of seniors will require some type of long-term care in their lifetime. Not only is long-term care expensive, but it's something Medicare generally won't cover. That's why it pays to secure long-term care insurance during your 60s if you haven't already gotten a policy. If you wait too much longer, you risk either getting denied, or getting charged a whopper of a premium. And neither scenario is ideal.
6. Learn how Social Security works
Though you shouldn't expect to get all, or even most, of your retirement income from Social Security, those benefits will no doubt help shape your financial picture when you're older. That's why it's crucial to read up on how Social Security works and devise a filing strategy that allows you to make the most of your benefits. Remember, though your benefits themselves are calculated based on your earnings record, the age at which you initially file for them could cause those payments to go up, go down, or remain the same. There's no right or wrong age for claiming benefits, but what you don't want to do is file on a whim because you haven't done your research.
Your 60s are the time to wrap up your career and prepare for what will hopefully be an exciting stage of life. Hit these milestones, and you'll be in a solid place financially as you gear up for the journey that is retirement.