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Retiring Within 5 Years? Do These Things Now

By Maurie Backman - Updated Apr 28, 2021 at 10:13AM

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As your career comes to an end, be sure to tackle these important tasks. Your senior years depend on them.

Retirement is an exciting milestone to look forward to, and if you're within five years of it, you may already have your own little countdown going. But before you leave the workforce for good, make sure to check these important items off your list.

1. Make some catch-up retirement plan contributions

Are you happy with the way your savings look? You may think you've socked away a bundle, but remember, if you withdraw from your savings at an annual rate of 3% to 5%, it may provide less annual income than you'd expect (and for many people, going above 5% on an annual basis could mean running out of money prematurely).

Say you're sitting on a $500,000 IRA or 401(k) plan balance. That sure looks like a lot of cash. But at the aforementioned withdrawal rates, it's just $15,000 to $25,000 of annual income, and unless you have a Roth IRA or 401(k), you won't even get to keep all of that money as you'll lose some of it to taxes. As such, if retirement is near, you may want to take the opportunity to boost your nest egg. Once you're 50, you can make catch-up contributions in your retirement plan that bring your annual limits up to $7,000 in an IRA and $26,000 in a 401(k).

An older man lounging on the couch with a laptop in his lap.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Shift toward bonds

Investing in stocks is an efficient way to grow wealth for the future. But once retirement starts to near, a better bet is to move some of your portfolio out of stocks and into bonds, which are far less volatile.

Now the extent to which you load up on stocks versus bonds will depend on your age (not everyone retires at the same time) and tolerance for risk. But if you're in your 60s, you probably want to set up your portfolio so you have about an even split between stocks and bonds.

3. Decide when you'll claim Social Security

You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your personal wage history at full retirement age, or FRA. FRA differs for everyone, and here's how it breaks down based on year of birth:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

1943-1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960 or later

67

Data source: Social Security Administration.

That said, you don't have to claim Social Security at FRA. You can sign up for benefits as early as age 62, albeit at a reduced rate, or delay your filing beyond FRA and grow your benefits by 8% a year, up until you turn 70.

Knowing when to file for benefits is important because the age you land on will dictate how much monthly income you wind up collecting throughout retirement. It may also influence your decision to cut back on spending (or not) during the tail end of your career to boost your nest egg. As such, it's a decision worth making several years before you actually pull the trigger on retirement.

If you're within five years of retirement, you may already be making plans to move to a new home (or state), travel, and do the many things you've always dreamed of. But at the same time, be sure to tackle these important financial items so you don't have to worry about financial matters once your time in the workforce comes to an end.

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