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Getting Ready for Retirement: In Your 40s

March 9, 2021 by Eileen Loustau

In your 40s, you’re finally starting to hit your stride — both at work and at home. You’re hitting your peak earning years and figuring out your long-term life (and savings) goals.

But this decade isn’t always smooth sailing. Life happens. While most 40-somethings are all too aware they need to save, big financial needs can get in the way.

But you can still set yourself up for a comfortable retirement, no matter what. Here is what you should do once you hit the big 4-0:

1. Get That Emergency Fund Together

Most experts recommend you have at least three to six months' worth of expenses saved. If you haven’t reached those goals yet, make your emergency fund a priority. When the unexpected happens (and it will), you won't have to derail your savings goals to cover your needs.

2. Dump the Debt

High-interest credit card debts can eat away at your savings potential over time. If you’re carrying large credit card balances, work on paying those off. Once you're debt-free, you can reroute those savings into your retirement account.

3. Maximize Your 401(k) Contribution

Employees can contribute up to $19,500 toward their 401(k) in 2021. Maximizing your contributions lowers your taxable income while boosting your savings.

Not sure you can swing that much right away? No problem. Aim to hit the company match limit first. (Remember, that's essentially free money you're leaving on the table if you don't.) And then build up your contributions over time. Even a 1% increase can make a big difference by the time you reach retirement.

4. Consider IRAs

Both traditional and Roth IRA can help you maximize your potential tax savings.

  • With a traditional IRA, you make contributions with pre-tax income. Your money can grow tax-deferred in the account, and you’ll pay taxes on the distribution (after age 59).
  • A Roth IRA lets you invest money after taxes. But you’ll be able to take your contributions and earnings out tax-free.

 For 2021, you can contribute up to $6,000. Keep in mind there are income limits for Roth IRAs. $125,000 adjusted gross income if you’re single and $185,000 if you’re married filing jointly.

5. Review Your Investment Strategy

In your 20s and 30s, you likely had a fairly aggressive investment approach to investing. But as you inch closer to retirement, consider if your strategies are still working for you. While you don’t need to play it too safe, it’s a good idea to regularly review your investment mix from here on out.

6. Talk to a Financial Advisor

Life can get complicated in your 40s. Maybe you’re building a college fund. Maybe you’re buying a second home? Maybe you just want to get a second set of eyes on your retirement plan? No matter what your needs are, you don’t have to go it alone. A certified financial planner can help you build a customized financial plan.

Remember, saving for retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. Making key moves as you progress in your career can help you stay on track with your goals — and we’re here to help guide you through the decades. Next in the series, we’ll talk about how retirement planning changes as you enter your 50s. 

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