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Checkups are important. There's a reason doctors encourage their patients to come in for a visit at least once a year—they want to ensure your health is intact or recognize a small problem early and take the appropriate steps to make sure it doesn't become a big one. But unlike the dentist, banks won't send you a darling little note in the mail to remind you of your fiscal checkup and to evaluate how you're doing financially.
Here are some guidelines to keep you on track for your retirement, regardless of your age.
Age 20 to 29
While most people have very finite resources in their 20s, it's still best to save as much money as you can afford to as early as possible. This can be in a savings account or even a 401k plan if your job offers one. Although you won't have to think about retiring for some time, it's best to take advantage of any opportunity regarding a retirement plan as soon as possible because of something called compounding interest.
"Thanks to compounding interest, if you begin to save early, you'll need to save less money over time than you would if you began to save at a later date," said Charles Crilly, a financial advisor and president of Ivory Wealth Management in Essex.
If you choose to not look into a retirement plan just yet, it's still important to have a basic savings account to which you contribute consistently. You never know when an unexpected expense will pop up and it's never a bad thing to have some extra cash to sit on.
Age 30 to 39
You've made it out of the financial dark ages of your 20s and are finally making some real money. At this point, saving money can be a reality rather than a luxury. However, you probably have more expenses than ever before. In what Crilly refers to as the "age of responsibility," this is when many people start buying a house or having children.
Despite these other expenses, Crilly said that retirement should still be at the forefront of your mind.
"Most people begin to consider saving for retirement during this stage, but it can be difficult at this point in life to make consistent contributions to a retirement fund," said Crilly. "Though other financial obligations may seem more pressing, contributing to a retirement plan should remain a priority."
Age 40 to 49
This is the point in your life when expenses are generally at their highest. You could be supporting a family, including sending your kids to college or supporting elderly parents who can no longer support themselves. You may also be paying off a mortgage or going through an expensive divorce where assets are being divided.
Crilly suggests to use this time to reevaluate your finances.
"It's a good time to review your retirement goals and ensure that you are on track to meet them," he said. "If you're not, it may be time to change your strategy."
Age 50 to 59
Now is the time to start taking a serious look at what your retirement plan is going to look like. Since you are at an age where retirement will soon be a reality, Crilly suggests going with low-risk investments.
"Although a high-risk investment vehicle may have been appropriate during your 20s, at this stage, it may be wise to choose something more conservative," he said.
Age 60 to 69
You've finally reached it. The golden age where retirement isn't just a pipe dream, but could quite well be a reality—that is, if you saved sufficiently. In our current economy, many people cannot afford to retire and continue to work in their 60s and beyond just to make ends meet.
Depending on how you saved your money when you were working, you may be able to retire fully without requiring any supplemental income. For some, retirement may be a combination of working part time and living off a savings account or retirement plan.
For many, it means a total lifestyle change.
"One thing that is true for most people is that the support from Social Security alone is not enough to maintain the standard of living pre-retirement," said Michael Crutchfield, marketing manager at Wepawaug-Flagg Federal Credit Union.
Either way, this is probably where you'll be taking the toughest look at your finances.
"Before deciding to retire, consider whether your retirement savings are sufficient to support you, or if you will have to make lifestyle changes," said Crilly.
Crutchfield also suggests using the website www.letsmakeaplan.org to find a certified financial planner that can help you plan for retirement if you don't already have an advisor.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
In the age of the Internet, it's easier than ever for thieves to get a hold of your information. To protect yourself from identity theft, it's important to check all your accounts regularly. The sooner you notice any unusual activity on your credit card or bank account, the sooner you can respond and prevent someone from doing some serious damage to your finances.
It's also best to ignore calls from numbers you do not recognize. Recently, many identity thieves have been able to steal information with phone scams through which they pose as someone the person would otherwise trust and trick them into giving away private information. If you do answer a call from an unknown number, hang up as soon as you sense something unusual.
Experts says it's also wise to update any older debit or credit cards to new ones that have a chip so as to protect your information when making daily transactions.
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