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4 Things to Do in Your 50s to Get Ready for Retirement

By Christy Bieber – Jul 19, 2020 at 10:45AM

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It's not too late to be thinking about your retirement fund. You still have time to shore up your finances.

If you're in your 50s, the date of your retirement is fast approaching. Hopefully, you're in good financial shape to leave work within the next decade or so, but sadly not every pre-retiree is on pace for a life of leisure. And even if you were, the coronavirus and the resulting 2020 recession may have disrupted your plans.

But there are things you can do right now to make sure you're prepared for retirement. And while some of them require you to have steady income, others are steps you can take even if you're currently out of work but planning to go back once the economy picks up.

Here are four tasks for your to-do list so you can make sure you're as prepared as possible to quit work when you want to. 

Older couple sitting on the beach.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Take advantage of catch-up contributions

Tax-advantaged retirement plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs are some of the best vehicles to amass money for retirement because you can contribute with pre-tax dollars. And once you've reached the age of 50, you get to contribute more to these accounts every year thanks to catch-up contributions.

In fact, the 401(k) contribution limit goes from $19,500 to $26,000 in 2020 thanks to that $6,500 catch-up contribution. And the combined contribution limit for a traditional and Roth IRA is increased from $6,000 to $7,000 in 2020 with a $1,000 catch-up contribution. 

If you're still working and have access to a 401(k) plan or you're eligible to make IRA contributions based on your income, aim to take advantage of these extra contributions and max out your accounts if you can. Doing so likely requires careful budgeting and financial sacrifice, but you're running out of time to build the nest egg you need, so it's worth the effort. 

2. Make sure you have appropriate asset allocation

Investing in the stock market is essential if you want to build wealth, but you can't have too much in the market when you're getting close to retirement since you won't have time to wait out downturns. As you get older, you need to reduce your exposure to equities to limit risk, so now is a great time to examine your asset allocation.

Most experts advise taking your age and subtracting 110 from it to determine the right percentage of money to have in the market. If you've just turned 50, you'd have 60% of your money in the market, whereas if you're 59 and much closer to leaving the workforce, you'd have just 51% invested in stocks.

If you're underinvested in stocks and aren't sure what to buy, consider taking Warren Buffett's advice and choosing an exchange-traded fund (ETF) unless you're ready to put in the work to pick individual stocks that are right for you. And if you're overinvested, it's time to think seriously about diversifying as you get older. 

3. Start amassing some money outside of the market

Speaking of not having time to wait out downturns, it's absolutely essential you have some liquid cash as a retiree so you aren't forced to sell losing investments during a bad time.

In fact, you should ideally have at least two to five years of money saved in a high-yield savings account before retirement so you can draw from it and leave your other investments alone during times of trouble. 

The recent market volatility caused by the coronavirus has underscored the importance of having liquid assets as a retiree, but it can take time to amass such a big savings account. Start working on it now so you're ready when retirement comes.

4. Begin exploring your healthcare options to cover the costs of care

Healthcare is extremely expensive, and retirees aren't immune from the costs since Medicare has way more coverage gaps than many people realize. In fact, recent studies have suggested a senior couple may need around $325,000 to cover Medicare premiums, prescription drugs, and other out-of-pocket costs throughout retirement.

Now is the time to start figuring out how you'll pay for that, ideally by investing in a health savings account or a retirement account earmarked for medical care. 

Don't be unprepared when your retirement date arrives

Retirement will be here before you know it, so taking these steps now can make sure you're ready. You don't want to face financial troubles in your later years, and you can't live on Social Security alone, so bulking up your savings, making sure you're taking on an appropriate level of risk, and preparing for expensive healthcare are keys to being a comfortable retiree. 

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