Experts Share Their Top Tips for Retiring Rich
Here's how to make your golden years platinum.
Retiring rich: Sounds like nice work if you can get it. A recent Axios-Iposos poll found that two-thirds of Americans age 55 and older plan to delay their retirement for financial reasons, and 70% say they believe they won't be able to afford to retire at all. The commonality is poor financial planning, and future generations will be wiser and wealthier if they act on that heads-up, experts say. Whether you make a fat salary now or bring in a more modest income, the road to retiring rich starts with some simple steps. We asked financial professionals how everyone can put their best foot forward.
"Embrace the 'pay yourself first' philosophy," advises Michael Ryan, who's been a financial planner for three decades. "Channel a portion of every paycheck into retirement savings before you spend on anything else. Aim for 10% to 20% in a tax-advantaged account, and automate it to ensure consistency." And start ASAP. "The earlier you start saving, the better," says Ryan. "Time is the alchemist that turns modest savings into a treasure chest, thanks to the magic of compounding."
"People tend to spend more when they make more, which explains why workers who earn six figures or more are living paycheck to paycheck," explains budgeting expert Andrea Woroch. "Avoiding lifestyle creep is fairly simple when you set a budget and track purchases, but it's also important to use your raise and bonuses wisely. Any time you get a promotion or score a new job that pays more, invest the difference in salary. This could be putting more toward retirement or your kid's college fund. This way you aren't even tempted to start spending more."
"Leverage employer-sponsored retirement plans with matching contributions," says Ryan. if your employer matches 401(k) contributions, make sure you're contributing to the max to get the most free money. Then, "Diversify with bonds, annuities, and stocks that pay dividends," says Ryan. Consulting with a financial professional for guidance can maximize your gains.
"Establishing an emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses will prevent you from having to withdraw from your long-term retirement investments," says Hazel Secco, CFP, CDFA, president of Align Financial Solutions in New Jersey. "Having this financial cushion is vital for making smart money decisions, especially in times of unexpected need, providing you with valuable options for financial security."
Just like a super-restrictive diet is likely to fail, a budget that acknowledges things you want is more likely to succeed. "There's nothing wrong with allowing yourself some discretionary purchases, but setting a budget and tracking your expenses are crucial to knowing which expenses you can afford to take on while still meeting your personal needs and future goals," says Woroch. "Don't buy a new pair of shoes before putting money away to an emergency fund or downpayment on a house fund, for instance. As long as you hit your savings goals and pay your bills, then you can allow for some 'fun money,' but track it so you don't go overboard."
"Satisficing" is a decision-making strategy that aims for a satisfactory or good enough outcome, instead of the optimal one. Longtime financial planner Greg Wilson says that's been a core determinant of his spending which allowed him to retire wealthy at 42. "I only spend enough to be happy, and not a penny more," he says. "For instance, I really want and can afford a self-driving Tesla. But I know it won't make me $70,000 happier. It will only make me $20,000 happier, so I don't buy one."
"This can serve as an additional income stream, helping you save more and invest more," says Wilson. "A side hustle doesn't just have to be a part-time job; it could also be a small business based on a hobby or skill you possess. The income from your side hustle can be used to further boost your 401(k) contributions or invested elsewhere. For me, it was real estate."
When you carry multiple credit cards, your purchases are spread out and it's easy to lose track of purchases, racking up a balance that's hard to pay off. "If you're carrying debt, consolidate it and transfer the balance to a 0% balance transfer card," Woroch recommends. These cards allow you anywhere from 12 to 21 months to pay off the balance without accruing interest. Sites like CardRates.com post detailed reviews of current balance transfer card offers.
Where you retire can make a huge difference in how well you live on your savings. "Don't forget the geography of wealth," says Ryan. "Your retirement dollars will stretch further in places with a lower cost of living. Whether it's sunny Florida, the heartland's embrace, or even overseas—location can be a powerful lever in maximizing your retirement riches.