If you’ve put in decades of hard work and are now less than half a year out from retirement, you’ve probably been planning for this transition for years. Even so, you’re going to want to sprint to the finish line without making any mistakes. Thanks to the economy, the pandemic and all the other forces brewing, you’ll want to make extra sure you’ve got your ducks in a row before you waltz off into your golden years.
Planning to retire at the end of 2022? Here’s what the experts want you to concentrate on over the next months.
Take a Look: 5 Affordable Places To Retire Near the Beach
More: 7 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Reach Your Retirement Goals
Be Aware of ‘Catch-Up’ Contribution Limits in 2022
If you’re planning on making additional contributions to your retirement plans this year before beginning to cash out, be aware of the limits for 2022.
“Special catch-up contributions are allowed for individuals who are 50 years of age or over to help them boost retirement savings as they get closer to their retirement date,” said Jay Shah, president of Personal Capital.
In 2022, the contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and Thrift Savings Plans increases from $19,500 to $20,500. The catch-up contribution limit for those accounts remains unchanged at $6,500, which means those 50 and up can contribute up to $27,000 in total. IRA contributions are still capped at $6,000 with a catch-up contribution limit of $1,000, and SIMPLE plan catch-up contributions will remain unchanged at $3,000.
Take Our Poll: Are You Concerned That Social Security Benefits Will Be Reduced During Your Lifetime?
Aim To Have 10 Times Your Pre-Retirement Income Saved
There’s no one, single amount of money to save that’s right for everybody, but if you have a decade’s worth of salary squirreled away, you’re in good shape.
“How much you need to have in retirement savings will vary by your lifestyle expectations and living expenses, but as a rule of thumb, aim to have 10 times your pre-retirement income saved by the time you retire,” said Melissa Ridolfi, senior vice president of retirement and cash management at Fidelity Investments.
Your Budget Should Include Discretionary Spending
You want to be able to enjoy your golden years, so be sure your budget includes some wiggle room for “fun” spending in addition to covering the essentials, like housing, medical expenses and food.
“Try to quantify what you think you need for retirement and do not forget to include discretionary items like travel,” said Daniel Fan, senior managing director and head of wealth planning at First Foundation Advisors.
Double-Check That You Actually Have Enough Resources To Retire
You may think you’re ready to retire, but it’s important to double-check your finances and withdrawal plan to ensure that you are truly financially ready to leave the workforce.
“Generally, you do not want to withdraw more than 4% from your accounts in order to meet retirement goals, so determine if this is possible,” Fan said. “The best possible way to determine if you have enough resources and how much you may need to save is to have a financial planner create a cash flow analysis for you.”
Remember That Retirement Planning Isn’t Linear
When planning for retirement, plan to adapt and change from year to year — you’re going to have to whether you plan for it or not.
“A linear approach to calculating finances ignores the real-life complexity of subjects like inflation and investment behavior that can change substantially over time,” said Daniel Ruppel, a senior financial planner with TIAA. “A financial plan should consider how these things can change from year to year, and how a family’s goals may be affected. For example, a series of negative investment returns in the early years of retirement can have a significant impact. An approach that assumes even a conservative positive return every year is unrealistic.”
Pay Off Your Debts First
Ideally, you will enter retirement debt-free.
“The more debt you carry into retirement the more difficult it will be to meet retirement goals, so try to pay off as much debt as possible,” Fan said. “If you have a large mortgage, you may want to consider downsizing to pay off as much of the mortgage as possible.”
Have a Spending Strategy
When you first start out, 10 times your salary might seem like all the money in the world — but without a plan, big piles of money have a way of turning into small piles of money awfully fast.
“It’s important to have a strategy to spend down your savings smartly,” said Amy Richardson, CFP, a financial planner with Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. “A good rule of thumb is to use guaranteed income — Social Security, pension payments, annuities, etc. — for essential expenses like housing, car loans, food, and utilities. Pay for optional expenses like vacations or gifts to grandchildren with less reliable sources of income like stock dividends, and distributions from mutual funds and ETFs.”
Consider Medical Expenses Before Retiring Early
Although it may be appealing to leave the workforce before you hit 65, this can come with a hefty additional cost.
“If you want to retire before age 65, make sure you have enough resources to pay for medical insurance since you will not yet qualify for Medicare,” Fan said. “These costs can be substantial, especially if you need to pay coverage for other family members.”
Know Your Minimum Distribution Requirements
You might have enough money coming in to let your 401(k) keep growing and growing — but you’re required by law to start taking money out at a certain age.
“The required minimum distribution rules vary based upon when you were born,” said Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS, founder of Robo-Advisor Pros. “Familiarize yourself with them, as the penalties are stiff for those who miss the deadlines. Also, review the IRS.gov COVID information to determine if this will impact your RMD.”
Have a Plan for Claiming Social Security Benefits
Another big choice is when, exactly, you plan to claim Social Security — just because you’re eligible to start receiving checks doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wait if you can.
“It’s important for people approaching retirement to understand the impact certain Social Security decisions can have on retirement preparedness,” Ridolfi said. “For example, the longer you can wait to claim Social Security, the more time there is to build savings. If you can afford to, waiting until at least you’re entitled to full Social Security benefits — between 66 and 67 — can help increase your monthly benefit. If you can delay claiming Social Security to age 70, your benefits can increase by 30% compared to what they would be had you claimed at age 65.”
Review Your Named Beneficiary Designations
A new change in the law makes it extra important to plan for your beneficiaries — especially if you have heavyweight assets.
“Investors saving towards retirement or those who are already in retirement should know that the recently-passed SECURE Act has changed laws regarding distribution options for named beneficiaries on retirement accounts,” said Leslie Geller, a wealth strategist at Capital Group. “Beyond ensuring that you have named beneficiaries, now is the time to review those designations because of the new 10-year distribution rule for inherited IRAs applicable to most non-spousal beneficiaries. This is especially relevant for investors who have significant retirement assets.”
Make Sure You’re Mentally Ready To Retire
You may have all your financial ducks in a row, but being mentally prepared for what this transition means is equally important.
“Since most of us receive social and psychological benefits from working, before retiring take a hard look at how you will fulfill those important needs once you’re retired,” Friedberg said. “You may not be ready to retire if you don’t have some ideas about how you will spend your time in retirement. Since jobs for older Americans may be difficult to find, take your time before deciding to retire and consider taking a month or two of vacation and try out your retirement lifestyle.”
More From GOBankingRates
Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Planning To Retire by the End of 2022? Here’s What You Need To Do Now