For many people between the ages of 40 and 60, the time known as “middle age” can be a dizzying blur of balancing multiple roles and ever-changing life transitions – between the demands of life, careers, maintaining a home, raising children, assisting aging parents, and planning one’s future.
While in your 40s and 50s, you need savings strategies that consider everything from personal assets to retirement. Here’s how you can save money in midlife.
Assess your current financial health
A good financial foundation is critical no matter your age. Start by reviewing where you are now. Have you built and updated a personal or family budget, created an emergency fund, developed a plan for paying down debt and established retirement savings? If you have, you’re in an excellent position. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You can begin making significant, positive gains moving forward with a close look at your financial picture.
Chip away at goals using the savings strategies in each category and, when you’re ready, you can take them to the next level of savings. If you’ve already built this foundation of financial security, let’s look at how to continue to shore up your economic standing as you progress in your career.
No one wants to be caught dealing with excessive debt, whether it’s due to too much spending, high expenses, high interest rates or all the above. That doesn’t mean all debt is bad — under the right circumstances, some debt can help your financial situation. Whenever you’re financing a new or used vehicle, an addition to your home or something else, make decisions with your long-term finances in mind.
Seek out low interest rates and other favorable terms — and think carefully about the value of what you’ll receive in return for taking out the loan or opening a line of credit. Most importantly, do everything you can to avoid choices that leave you in a vulnerable financial position like having payments higher than you can afford, selecting payment timelines that extend into retirement (thus cutting into retirement income) and choosing debt for too many expenses, which can stretch finances too thin.
Earn and save more
For many in traditional career tracks, your 40s and 50s are a period of peak income and earnings, assuming a consistent career path and opportunities for advancement. There are a variety of ways to boost your income, from negotiating for a raise to applying for a promotion.
You may also decide to start a second job, a side business, or participate in the gig economy. Another option is to expand your skill set to boost your salary‡. Additionally, you may consider passive income options‡ that provide a steady cash flow with minimal labor or time commitments.
The old savings standbys of trimming unnecessary spending from a budget and paying down debt can also lead to more money that can be put toward post-retirement life.
Adjust your budget as your life changes
As you get older, your life circumstances can change significantly. From children moving out on their own — even if they still need a little help from their parents — to downsizing to a smaller home, many situations can lead to reduced spending. Adjust your budget and savings strategies accordingly to account for the increased or decreased discretionary income. Whether you want to put more money into your IRA or increase personal investments, make sure to leverage the extra funds thoughtfully. A financial partner can help you establish a savings strategy and secure and manage your money as your needs evolve.
Ramp up retirement savings
Retiring may feel far away, but it is still best to take a proactive approach to planning. It may be time to meet with a financial adviser to strategize specific plans with a targeted retirement date in mind. Calculate how much money you’ll need for retirement and consider maximizing your plan contributions to your IRA and 401(k) accounts. Remember, if you are older than 50, you may be eligible for catch-up contributions, which are an extra amounts you can stash away each year.
In addition to traditional retirement accounts, supplemental retirement income can be significant, including pensions, Social Security income, and health savings accounts (HSAs).
There are several different spending strategies to use when you reach retirement age. As a planning strategy, you may want to consider the spending smile when estimating how much to save. This “smile” spending strategy assumes a retiree might spend more in the early years of retirement as they travel, enjoy their free time and maximize hobbies. Then, as the years pass, spending slows down as the retiree slows down – in health and in expenses. The final upward curve of the smile is attributed to the increase in healthcare expenses as retirees age.
Balancing retirement saving with other goals
According to Nationwide‡, middle age is a crucial financial turning point for many and can be an opportunity to set goals and plan for your future. While saving for your own retirement, you’ll want to consider your contributions to other financial responsibilities‡ – including financial support for your children or long-term care for aging parents.
Juggling these financial responsibilities while saving for retirement can be stressful and may require careful planning and budgeting. With that in mind, the moves you make in your 40s and 50s are critical for Americans. Research, plan and find a financial planner who can help you adjust, strategize and prepare for what’s ahead.
Need help planning for retirement? UMB’s calculators can help you address common financial challenges including retirement savings, emergency funds and more.
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