No matter your income level, age, or asset mix, it’s important that your retirement plan for the future is successful so you can enjoy your golden years.
The good news is, the path has already been traveled by other older Americans who have successfully entered their retirement after many years of saving. You might even discover that what they did isn’t as challenging as you might think.
CEO Jonathan Brown summarized a good deal of what being a successful retirement saver looks like:
These are the folks who go above and beyond the average saver,” says Jonathan Brown, in Atlanta. “They're the ones who show exceptional discipline when it comes to saving, both in small and big ways. They meticulously track their expenses, cut unnecessary costs and prioritize saving over impulsive spending. But it doesn't stop there. [emphasis added]
All of that sounds like common sense. In addition, the same piece that quoted Brown also recommended paying down debt, keeping expenses low, and avoiding fees.
But like the quote said, it doesn’t stop there. Here are the four retirement saving guidelines to consider that could help to increase your chances for long-term success.
#1 – Set a solid financial foundation and specific long-term goals
Every successful financial plan has a firm foundation. Investopedia recommends starting with a budget and building emergency savings:
“You can’t know where you are going until you really know where you are right now. That means setting up a budget,” says Lauren Zangardi Haynes, a fiduciary and fee-only financial planner with Spark Financial Advisors…
Ilene Davis, a certified financial planner (CFP) with Financial Independence Services in Cocoa, Florida, recommends saving at least three months' worth of expenses to cover your financial obligations and basic needs, but preferably six months' worth.”
Remember, you do not want to be one of the people who can’t afford an emergency.
Then the same article offers a basic suggestion for long-term saving:
The biggest long-term financial goal for most people is saving enough money to retire. The common rule of thumb is that you should save 10% to 15% of every paycheck in a tax-advantaged retirement account like a 401(k) or 403(b), if you have access to one, or a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. But to make sure you’re really saving enough, you need to figure out how much you'll actually need to retire.
While you’re considering these “rules,” be aware they aren’t set in stone. Your individual life circumstances might dictate exactly how much you can save, even if you’re prioritizing your financial planning.
And you can’t know if you’re there yet unless you know where you’re going! (See this discussion of a “dynamic savings number” to help you figure out how much you’ll need.)
Possibly the best way make all this happen? That’s up next…
#2 – Put your savings on autopilot
It’s a good idea to consider automating any retirement contributions that you can:
Automated investing is the practice of contributing money to your investment accounts on a regular basis through direct deposit from your paycheck or recurring bank transfers. The idea is to establish this routine of saving and investing regularly with no extra effort on your part.
Making it automatic can help keep your savings plan on track no matter what else is going on in your life. Not only can you make saving automatic, you may be able to make investing automatic as well.
Automatic saving can help you stay on track while you’re busy living your life.
But also keep the following in mind: “Set it and forget it” might work for some things, but you don’t want to neglect your savings.
It’s a good idea to schedule a check-in, maybe just once a year, to ensure you’re still on-track.
Speaking of staying on track…
#3 – When you make more, save more
Every year, the Internal Revenue Service changes the amounts an individual can contribute to their retirement tax-free, along with the “catch up contribution” for savers who might be a bit behind.
Here are the 2023 retirement savings contribution limits.
Ameriprise explains the benefits of increasing contributions in your own retirement savings (using hypothetical amounts, of course):
Let’s say that you contribute $1,200 to an IRA every year over a 10-year period. With an annual, compounded return of 6%, your savings would total $16,766. On the other hand, if you contribute $6,000 to an IRA annually, and keep the other factors the same, you would end up with $90,816. The numbers are even more impressive for workplace plans, such as the 401(k) and 403(b), which have higher contribution limits.
The Internal Revenue Service also reminds older Americans who are saving for their retirement of the other benefits for contributing to certain retirement plans:
you may reduce your taxable income by making pre-tax contributions;
your employer may match your contributions to the plan (for example, your employer may contribute 50 cents for each dollar that you contribute to the plan, up to a certain amount); and
you may qualify for the retirement savings contributions credit of up to $2,000 (up to $4,000 if filing jointly) for contributing to the plan and this credit may reduce your federal income tax liability.
Let’s remember that the IRS changes the rules every year. So this year’s guidance may be obsolete next year.
Speaking of the IRS, there’s one thing we cannot emphasize enough…
#4 – Claim your tax breaks!
It’s always a good idea to know about potential tax breaks when saving for retirement. After all, the less you have to pay to the IRS the more you can save.
This discussion by AARP covers the basics.
We’ve covered some ground on required minimum distributions before. The IRS website is a good place to keep apprised of new changes as they publish them.
Now, a word of warning about the three thieves…
The most successful savers know these 3 tricks
First, there are three thieves that profit from your hard work saving for your future. Make certain you can recognize them on sight!
Second, as mentioned above, regulations do change constantly. For example, in 2021, a popular “back door tax hike” was implemented (by removing the extremely beneficial and popular mega backdoor Roth).
Third, there are alternative assets available to you (even though financial advisors don’t like to recommend them), including physical precious metals.
Physical gold and silver have been revered as safe haven investments for thousands of years. They are tangible and finite resources that can’t be printed out of thin air, can’t be hacked and are still prized today as they were during Biblical times.
Physical precious metals set the standard for long-term stable value. That’s great when you’re thinking about risk management in the face of an uncertain future.
The good news is, anyone can diversify with physical precious metals. You don’t have to be a billionaire or a central bank! Are physical precious metals a good choice for you? Learn more for free right here.
Peter Reagan is a financial market strategist at Birch Gold Group. As the Precious Metal IRA Specialists, Birch Gold helps Americans protect their retirement savings with physical gold and silver. Based in the Los Angeles area, the company has been in business since 2003. It has an A+ Rating.
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