Making sure you save enough to retire comfortably is an essential part of your financial planning. Whether you're just getting started or are a seasoned veteran, it's a good idea to make 2016 the year in which you make substantial progress toward reaching your retirement goals. Below, you'll find several ideas to make your retirement dreams a reality.
1. Give your saving a raise.
If you were fortunate enough to get a year-end bonus or salary increase for 2016, one smart thing to do is to use at least part of it to increase the amount you save for retirement. Boosting your 401(k) contribution by a single percentage point can add an additional five-figure or even six-figure amount to your retirement nest egg over the course of a career, and if it makes you eligible to get an even larger matching contribution from your employer, that's even better. Whether you use an employer-based plan or contribute to an IRA, putting more aside in 2016 will get you on the road to prosperity more quickly.
2. Get your debt under control.
The closer you get to retirement, the less debt you should have on your personal balance sheet. Once paychecks stop coming in, so too does most of the monthly income you used to make interest and principal payments. Getting high-rate debt like credit card balances paid off is paramount, but even less onerous debt like a mortgage or student-loan payments should be targets for elimination before you reach retirement age. If you can reach that goal, it will make it much simpler to make ends meet in retirement.
3. Assess your long-term care needs.
Healthcare expenses can be a huge burden in retirement, and many people make the mistake of thinking Medicare covers all of their potential healthcare costs. One thing Medicare doesn't cover is long-term care, and you'll need separate insurance coverage in order to make sure you don't bear the full burden of all of those expenses. Long-term care insurance has been a tough market for insurers, so it could be hard to get the coverage you want at the price you'd like to pay. The earlier you start looking, the more affordable long-term care insurance will be.
4. Start planning a retiree budget.
It's easy to focus solely on the investing side of retirement, but the other side of the equation is just as important. Knowing how much you anticipate spending after you retire can help you define exactly how much money you need to accumulate during your career. If you can find ways to cut your spending without sacrificing your quality of life, then it could allow you to retire that much sooner. From downsizing a home to considering a move to a lower-cost location, thinking about your retirement expenses can awaken a creative instinct and make thoughts of retiring much more exciting.
5. Plan your Social Security.
As retirement approaches, you'll want to look at all of your potential income sources. The majority of Americans rely on Social Security for at least half of their retirement income, so it's important to be smart about when you plan on taking your benefits and how family dynamics come into play. Whether you decide to take Social Security at your earliest opportunity, at age 62, or wait until age 70 to boost the size of your monthly payments, knowing the ropes of how Social Security works is essential to your financial security.
Being smart about retirement means taking advantage of everything in your financial arsenal. Investing better, controlling your costs, and protecting yourself from unexpected financial catastrophes are all important in order to put together a plan for your retirement that you can live with.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.