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How to Make Sure Your Future Self Remains Funded

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As a member of the “latchkey generation,” the days of letting yourself in through a back door of the house after school, tossing a Hot Pocket in the microwave and yelling “I want my MTV” are but a distant memory. Now that you’ve reached your 40s and 50s, it’s time to turn that DIY-attitude toward taking care of your future self and your loved ones — financially.

In honor of National Retirement Security Week (the third week of October), this is a great time to focus on and level-set your financial plan to ensure your future self doesn’t run out of money in retirement. No matter whether you’ve been saving for decades or you’ve just started putting money aside for your golden years, you’ll want to make some adjustments as retirement gets closer.

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The first step toward proactively preparing for retirement is determining how much you’ll need — and how much you’re on track to save. You can use new tools like retirement calculators to get a ballpark figure, or work with a financial professional who can help you run the numbers.

If there’s an unsettling gap between your projected savings and your retirement goals, you’re not alone. More than 70% of Americans say that a lack of retirement savings is their biggest barrier to financial security. You’ve still got time to make some financial changes that can help close the gap, though the sooner you can get started the better.


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And even for those whose savings are on track, that’s only half the battle. There’s still the equally critical task of working with your financial professional to put a sound retirement income plan in place, to make sure those hard-earned savings last as long as you do.

Here are a few money moves to consider along the way:

  1. Boost your savings
    The best way to have more money in retirement is to save more money for retirement. And one of the best places to put those savings is into your 401(k) account at work, as a pre-tax contribution and with tax-deferred growth. This year, you can put up to $19,500 into your 401(k) account, and those age 50 and older can put in an additional $6,500.

If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you might also consider putting money into a health savings account. Cash invested in an HSA has even more tax benefits than a 401(k), since it goes into the account tax-free, grows tax-free, and can be withdrawn tax-free for medical expenses — now or in the future.

And once you’ve reached critical savings levels and are closer to those retirement years, there are whole new sets of products that you and your financial professional can use to help stabilize value or provide a buffer to protect against market volatility coming at the wrong time.

  1. Consider working longer
    If you’re concerned that retirement is approaching and you haven’t yet reached your savings target, postponing your retirement — even by just a year or two — could make a huge difference. Not only will you get a few extra years’ worth of savings, but you’ll also postpone your need to start drawing down your savings, and it could help you delay tapping into Social Security before the optimal ages to maximize income.

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Another option might be to take on part-time work or consulting work once you’ve left your full-time job. The recent COVID-fueled embrace of remote work by corporate America means you may be able to land a flexible gig that you’re able to do on your time — at home.

  1. Build your own ‘pension-like’ retirement income plan
    One way to make sure that you never run out of money in retirement is to have a source of protected income. Your parents’ and grandparents’ generations typically relied on pensions to provide this type of security, but traditional employer-provided defined benefit plans have become increasingly rare.

That’s even more the reason why the time is now to speak with a financial professional about taking matters into your own hands — to create a pension-like retirement income stream that can help you protect the outcomes that matter most. Even if you nailed the savings accumulation stages, gone are the days of relying on the old “4% rule” of systematic withdrawals from your investment portfolio as a safe way to ensure your money lasts. As more and more Americans seek to ensure that their savings will fuel their longer, healthier lives, they are realizing that this so called “safe withdrawal” rate is anything but.

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