Experts: Here Is What Your Retirement Savings Should Look Like by Age 50
By age 50, many Americans are well established in their jobs, but this is also an age when many of them are also juggling several financial responsibilities: caring for their children while taking care of their aging parents and themselves.
Making sure they’re on track for their retirement planning can sometimes take the backseat of their priorities. In turn, financial experts remind them that while there are no set rules, retirement is not that far away and there are some steps they can take to plan for a comfortable post-work life.
“Retirement is not one size fits all. We say personal finance is personal for a reason,” said Bobbi Rebell, founder of Financial Wellness Strategies and author of “Launching Financial Grownups: Live Your Richest Life by Helping Your (Almost) Adult Kids Be Everyday Money Smart.”
“That said, it may make sense to do some math with a financial advisor. Think forward about what your life will cost when you retire and then you can get a sense of what you will need to fund that life. Be sure to factor in inflation and a realistic rate of return on your investments.”
Check Where You Are on Your Timeline
At 50, ideally you are well on your way to your target retirement savings; if not, that age is a great time for a wakeup call, because many of us still often have a couple of decades to contribute to and grow our investments, Rebell said.
Not enough? Make reasonable and realistic adjustments to your savings and investing. Still not enough? Get comfortable with course correcting, she said.
“We are often exposed to aspirational images of what our retirement should look like by companies who have a vested interest in getting us to work with them,” she said. “That can be a great motivator. But it also can be discouraging if we don’t live up to the expectations we see in the media and hear about from friends and family.
“Bottom line: Measure your investments against your own realistic goals and aspirations not against your friends and family, and certainly not against the aspirational images from social media and anyone trying to sell you on something.”
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Start With Some Questions and Assessments
At 50, you’re 17 years away from “official” retirement and some professionals even work later, which is a solid runway to make some impact on your retirement, some experts say.
“It starts with a goal and an assessment of what you can do,” said Tatiana Tsoir, CPA, business expert and founder of The Bold Blog. “Ask yourself these questions.”
First, when do you plan on retiring? “Many people know — just based on what they do at 40-50 — they’re already confident in their careers and know where it’s generally going,” she said. “So, if we take 67 as an arbitrary age, the next question is: What’s your average life expectancy when you’re 67? This number is arbitrary too, of course, but it gives a good idea of the target.”
The next question: “How much money do you need per year, after tax, to live comfortably at retirement?”
Tsoir said, “This will take a bit of a calculation depending on whether your home is paid off or not, if you have any debt, if you’re getting full Medicare coverage and/or supplements.”
Save Six Times Your Income by Age 50
Rita Assaf, vice president of retirement products at Fidelity Investments, explained that Fidelity suggests aiming to save at least 15% of your pre-tax income each year, including any employer match, with the aim of saving 10 times your pre-retirement income by age 67.
“To meet that goal, that generally means aiming to save six times your income by age 50,” Assaf said. “Keep in mind that there are other factors that might impact that milestone, such as when you plan to retire and the kind of lifestyle you’d like to have in retirement.”
In your 50s, she added, one of the best things you can do is take full advantage of catch-up contributions — every dollar counts.
Mitigate Financial Risk as You Approach Retirement
Another important step by age 50 is to make sure your asset allocation aligns with your risk tolerance and is appropriate for your age group or time horizon.
For example, investing in a target date fund or a managed account may provide greater peace of mind during periods of volatility, according to Assaf.
Don’t forget to diversify, as exposure to different areas of the markets — U.S. small- and large-caps, international stocks, investment-grade bonds, etc. — can help balance the overall risk in your portfolio relative to your age and goals, she added.
Finally, don’t be afraid to rebalance your portfolio. “Avoid portfolio drift, which can happen during bull markets, when stocks rise and your asset allocation becomes unbalanced,” Assaf said.
As always, she added, it may be helpful to meet with a financial advisor to review your goals, conduct some scenario planning and hopefully gain some peace of mind.
Be Debt Free and Plan for Healthcare Costs
There are two things that most people should aim for by the time they hit 50, according to Jay Zigmont, Ph.D., certified financial planner and founder of Childfree Wealth. First, being out of debt — everything but a mortgage — and second, having a plan in place for long-term care.
“Being debt free sets a foundation so that all of your extra income can go to saving and investing,” Zigmont said. “Long-term care is often overlooked, but your 40s can be when it is cheapest to buy a long-term care insurance policy. If you don’t want to buy a long-term care insurance policy, be sure to have a plan that includes a set-aside amount to plan for it.”
Andrew Latham, certified financial planner and director of content of SuperMoney.com, echoed the sentiment, noting that healthcare expenses can be a significant financial burden during retirement.
“As you approach 50, start considering your healthcare needs and explore options such as long-term care insurance or health savings accounts (HSAs) to help cover potential medical costs,” Latham said. “Including healthcare expenses in your retirement savings plan is crucial for maintaining financial security in your later years.”
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