5 Ways to Build Retirement Stability in Your 50s

By Alicia Rose Hudnett on 22 May 2018 0 comments

If retirement planning hasn't been at the top of your to-do list, your 50s are the time to make it your first priority. Wait 10 more years, and your only choice of retirement options may just be to keep working. Here's how you can prevent that from happening.

1. Take advantage of catch-up contributions

Whether you've been a responsible saver or not, this may be your last chance to really build up your nest egg. Beginning the year you turn 50, you can contribute $6,500 to an IRA (that's an additional $1,000 for 2018) and $24,500 to most workplace retirement plans (that's $6,000 more than the standard allowable amount for 2018). (See also: 6 Ways Meeting the 2018 401(k) Contribution Limits Will Brighten Your Future)

2. Get an HSA

If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you can open a health savings account, or HSA. Contributions to an HSA are made on a pretax basis and remain tax-free if used for qualified health care expenses. For the 2018 tax year, if you have an individual plan, you can contribute up to $3,450, and if you have family coverage, you can contribute up to $6,900. If you are age 55 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000.

A health savings account is similar to other tax-advantaged retirement accounts: Once you establish an account, you don't need to use up the funds each year, and you may be able to invest the money within the HSA, allowing the account to grow. And even if you've established the account through your job, you can take the account with you if you leave.

Before age 65, if you take a distribution from your HSA for non-qualified medical expenses, you may owe income taxes and a 20 percent penalty. But after age 65, non-qualified distributions are penalty-free (but not income-tax free), making it structured like a traditional IRA. Qualified health care expenses are always tax-free at any age. (See also: How an HSA Could Help Your Retirement)

3. Check your Social Security benefit

This is the time to begin thinking about how you will establish a base foundation of guaranteed monthly income that will cover your necessary living expenses. And for many individuals, your Social Security benefit will be the first part of that foundation.

If you haven't already done so, you can start by creating a "my Social Security" account on the Social Security Administration's website, where you can check your work history and benefit summary. This can give you a good idea of how much other savings you will most likely need in order to cover the shortfall between your living expenses and your Social Security check each month.

You can receive Social Security benefits as early as age 62, with one major caveat: You will receive 70 percent of your full earned benefit. To receive 100 percent of your retirement benefit, you must wait until your full retirement age, as determined by the Social Security Administration. For anyone born in 1960 or after, that age is 67.

So if you think that your Social Security benefit is going to play a substantial role in your retirement equation, it's worth waiting until at least your full benefit is available. Each year you delay, up until age 70, your benefit may increase 8 percent. (See also: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Start Claiming Your Social Security Benefits)

4. Sit with a financial planner

Now is the perfect time to sit with a financial planner who can help you look at what retirement will realistically look like for you. You can go over your expenses, which is the first step to figuring out how much monthly retirement income you will need. That, in turn, will indicate how big of a retirement portfolio you will need to generate that income.

A financial planner can also evaluate your investments and make recommendations that can make a huge impact on the growth of your retirement savings. After all, despite the fact that you may be retiring within the next 10 or 15 years, your investment time horizon is still 30 to 40 years, so it's critical that your portfolio reflects that. (See also: 7 Occasions When You Should Definitely Hire a Financial Adviser)

5. Consider long-term care

When people hear "long-term care," they often think it has to do with an insurance policy. But it's a more pressing matter than that. This is the age when you should start reviewing long-term care insurance policies (which cover expenses that Medicare doesn't) and evaluate your own assets to see if you have the ability to effectively self-insure should you need assisted living. If not, a long-term care insurance policy may be a good idea. (See also: The Best Age to Buy Long-Term Care Insurance)

Your 50s are as much about increasing your net worth as they are about properly managing and protecting your current assets. This may be your last chance to get it right.

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