You’ve finished paying your children’s college bills. Maybe you’ve even paid off your mortgage. So now that you’re in your “empty nest” years, you don’t have to worry about where the money is going, right? In reality, you may be caring for aging parents and possibly even dealing with “boome-rang” kids returning home. Nonetheless, at this stage of your life, you need to focus your efforts on saving and investing for the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned.
If you’re concerned about whether you’ll be able to afford retirement, you aren’t alone. Consider the following figures from the 2009 Retirement Confidence Survey, published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute:
Just 13 percent of the workers surveyed said they are very confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement. This represents the lowest level since the Retirement Confidence Survey began in 1993.
Seventy-two percent of workers – up from 66 percent in 2007 – are planning to supplement their income in retirement by working for pay.
These figures are probably driven, in part, by the recent recession, but they also reflect a general uneasiness among workers about how well they’ve saved and invested for retirement. As you know, it’s not easy to save for retirement and pay for your kids’ college and make your mortgage payments. Like many people, you might have just done the best you could for all these years. But if you’ve finished paying off some major expenses, you might have more chances to boost your retirement savings.
Here are a few suggestions:
Increase your contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan. In 2010, you can put up to $16,500 into your 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) plan, or $22,000 if you’re 50 or older. Your contributions are typically made with pretax dollars, so the more you contribute, the lower your taxable income. Plus, your earnings can grow on a tax-deferred basis.
Increase your IRA contributions. Even if you have a 401(k) or other employersponsored retirement plan, you may still be eligible to contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA. In 2010, you can put $5,000 into an IRA, or $6,000 if you’re 60 or older. A traditional IRA grows tax deferred, while a Roth IRA can grow tax free, provided you’ve held your account at least five years and you don’t start taking withdrawals until you’re age 59½.
Rebalance your investment portfolio. Maintaining the right mix of investments can be a balancing act. On one hand, you’ll need to own a reasonable percentage of growth-oriented vehicles to potentially boost your retirement savings. On the other hand, if you are within, say, five years of retirement, you may also want to reduce the effects of volatility on your portfolio, which means you’ll need some income-producing investments that carry a relatively lower level of investment risk. There’s no magic formula for achieving the correct balance, so you’ll want to work with a professional financial advisor – someone who knows your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon, and who has the expertise and experience necessary to help you make the right choices.
Becoming an empty nester may provide you with opportunities to do things you haven’t done before – such as concentrate your resources on building the type of retirement you deserve.