If you’re in your 60s, chances are you’ve been planning for retirement for decades, but this is the time when your prep gets real. With retirement on the horizon, start taking concrete steps to strengthen your long-term outlook and prepare for the transition.
Here’s how to make the most of the remaining years before you stop working full-time:
1. Plan your end game. You probably have a good general sense of how much money you need to retire. It’s time to understand what that means in day to day terms, to set realistic expectations about your retirement lifestyle, and of course, to keep saving to ensure you hit your targets. Compare your “retirement number” to your expected monthly expenses. Spot a discrepancy? You have plenty of time to make adjustments: the key is to keep your ongoing savings on track with your expectations.
2. Boost your retirement portfolio. This decade is your last chance to make a big push towards beefing up your retirement portfolio. The good news is, it’s not too late to catch up to your goal. With your children done with college and out of the house, and your home mortgage paid off, you have significantly more funds to direct into retirement savings. Make this your top priority. Be sure to max out all retirement vehicles available to you. Take advantage of “Catch Up” contributions available through your employer and for your IRA.
3. Reduce your living expenses. The flip side of boosting your retirement savings is gradually streamlining your lifestyle now, in preparation for retirement. Take a close look at your monthly expenses and identify items you can do without. Start eliminating a few expenses every year until you retire. This gradual approach will let you significantly cut your monthly expenses without feeling the shock of adjustment. Many times not knowing how much you really need to live on is the biggest challenge to your retirement dreams.
4. Pay off any lingering debts. If you have outstanding balances on credit cards, car loans, or other installment loans, plan on paying them off before you retire. If possible, you should arrive at retirement debt-free. That way, the retirement savings you’ve worked so hard to accumulate will be yours to spend in full, rather than being reduced every month by debt payments.
5. Keep or pay off your mortgage? It depends. Conventional wisdom tells us to pay off our home mortgage before retiring, but if your rate is less than 5% and you can afford to make your mortgage payments from guaranteed-income sources in retirement, you may be better off investing the money you would have put toward the loan. Paying off your mortgage may make a lot of sense if it will give you peace of mind and help you sleep better at night.