Retirement Advice for Those Nowhere Near Retirement

It’s valuable to share insights and information with everyone who is on their journey to retirement — but it can be easy to focus more on those who are closer to retirement instead of earlier in their careers.

So, here’s a look at some financial advice for younger workers. It’s especially valuable to help younger people avoid some of the financial mistakes that some of their elders made on their own financial journeys.

For many people, thinking back to their younger years and the financial decisions they made then is about enough to make them try to invent a time machine. Until time travel comes around, good old-fashioned education is the next best thing. A recent article1 does a great job of providing some of those tips.

The first piece of advice is to learn self-control. When we’re kids, most of us learn self-control in terms of when we talk in class, how many cookies we can eat when they first come out of the oven, and when we go to bed. But it’s just as important to learn financial self-control.

Self-control is even more important when we start to work full-time and make more money than we ever had previously. When we get older and are making a regular salary, we have to learn instant gratification can get us in trouble if we start buying whatever we want with credit cards.

Saving up for the latest PlayStation, rather than putting it on plastic, is going to be so helpful in the long run. Remember, if putting gadgets, jeans, and sushi on credit cards becomes a habit, you could end up paying for those things for many years into the future.

The article does note, of course, that credit cards are a financial tool most people have to use, at least from time to time.1 And you can also be strategic about how you use them. For example, select a card that has good and achievable rewards, perhaps frequent flyer miles or cash back.

Then, always pay your balance in full when the bill hits in your inbox. Also, don’t carry more cards than you can keep track of or pay off each month.

Not relying too heavily on credit cards is such a valuable financial life lesson. Credit cards are valuable tools for emergency situations and can also help you build credit, but it’s so crucial to not to abuse them.

The next thing that benefits young people on their journey to retirement is to know where their money is going. It sounds like a simple thing, but it’s essential. If you stop every morning on the way to work for a bagel or coffee you might not really notice the daily expense. In a way, your mind can play tricks on you. Every morning when you’re in line for your coffee and bagel, you tell yourself, “Hey, it’s only $6.” But your mind isn’t factoring yesterday’s $6 and tomorrow’s $6.

Finally, no matter where you are in life or on your journey to retirement, it’s important to have an emergency fund.1 With factors including credit card debt, student loan debt, an entry-level salary, it can be difficult to build an emergency fund. But it’s still important to save money, even if it’s only a few bucks.

The decisions you make when you’re young can have a lasting impact on your retirement strategy. By starting to make good decisions early on, you’ll position yourself well for everything that’s yet to come on your journey.


How To Get Over Retirement Fears

As it’s depicted in popular culture and advertising, looking ahead to retirement is a time of great excitement and optimism. After all, if you’re in your 60s, you’ve likely been going to work every day for 40 years or more. So, retirement means you can spend your time doing the things you’ve always wanted to do.


While that depiction of retirement is in many ways true, it’s also true that those final years and months before retirement can be a source of anxiety for many people. The ads tell us they’re living the good life, but they don’t show how much sweat, work, and worry went into reaching that picture-perfect retirement.

Getting yourself to the retirement you’ve always wanted does take a lot of work and there are going to be moments of doubt and worry. But here’s the thing: Doubt and worry are both perfectly natural. Here are a few of the common fears that were highlighted in a recent article.1

The first common financial retirement fear is simply running out of money. Now, on the surface, that sounds obvious, and to a degree it is. But it’s not easy to determine how much money you’re likely to need in retirement with any real certainty.

One good way to address this fear is to work with an experienced financial services professional who can calmly and confidently address your concerns and questions. A financial services professional may be well positioned to help you add more certainty to determining how much money you’ll likely need once you’ve left the workforce.

In addition, a software program can help you make calculations and show you how much you need to be saving as you progress toward retirement. Perhaps most importantly, a software program may help you find places you can comfortably reduce your expenses after retirement to make it more likely that your money sees you through.

A second fear that you can overcome on your journey is the fear of inflation cutting into your nest egg. It’s true that because of inflation the money you’ve saved for retirement doesn’t have as much purchasing power.1 And if inflation were to go up rapidly, for whatever reason, it could imperil your preferred retirement lifestyle. Those changes could be small, like not being able to eat out or travel as often, or they could be more significant, depending on how much you have saved.

Finally, concerns about high healthcare costs are very common. It’s no revelation to say that healthcare is expensive, and there’s no reason to believe that it won’t just keep getting more expensive. So that leaves a lot of near-retirees sweating the details of their own coverage. But there are things you can do to help you prepare. One option may be opening a health savings account, which is more commonly referred to as an HSA. Not only will this kind of account help you cover medical costs, but it may also provide general tax savings.

You should note, however, that once you turn 65 and enroll in Medicare, you’ll no longer be able to fund an HSA.1

You want the months and years leading into retirement to be a time of excitement, not a time of worry. Working with a financial services professional to help you identify ways to build on your retirement strategy may help.


5 Situations When You May Want To Pause Retirement Savings

Being Financially healthy throughout your journey to retirement is just as important as being financially healthy once you retire.

For that reason and inspired by a recent U.S. News and World Report article,1 let’s explore a few situations when it may make sense for you to stop saving for retirement — temporarily, of course.

This information is especially relevant for some people during the pandemic, but these ideas really apply anytime, whether the economy is up or down. And, to make it abundantly clear, these are all temporary situations that may make sense to pause retirement savings.

1| To rebound from a health crisis. During a health crisis it may be beneficial, or perhaps even essential, to pause saving for retirement. If you get slapped with medical expenses that your insurance company doesn’t cover, those bills have to paid out of your own pocket. And it’s safe to say that it doesn’t take long for healthcare bills to add up. If you have an ongoing relationship with a financial services professional, they’re going to be a go-to should you have a health crisis. They’ll be equipped to help you find ways to cover those dreaded out-of-pocket expenses without jeopardizing your future. If you aren’t working with a financial services professional, you may want to consider it.

2| To get rid of credit card debt. If you’re currently saddled with credit card debt large enough that you can’t pay it off each month, it may be a wise move to take a break from saving for retirement so that you can get rid of your credit card debt once and for all. As the article notes, the interest you’re paying on your credit cards may very well wipe out the gains you’re enjoying in your retirement strategy.1 That means getting your credit cards under control will have financial payoffs beyond just reducing your monthly expenses. Consider this: If you have a credit card balance with an interest rate of 17% and your retirement accounts are earning 8%, you’ve obviously got a gap that you’ll want to address as quickly as possible.

3| To cover unexpected unemployment. Losing your job is a terrifying prospect and if you find yourself in that position, you’re entitled to take the necessary steps to get through it. If you or your spouse is temporarily out of a job, you can use the money you were dedicating to retirement to cover household expenses. Then, when your employment situation stabilizes, you can get right back to socking money away for retirement.

4| To save to buy a home. Using the money you were dedicating to retirement to save up a larger down payment or to cover closing costs may be an appropriate financial move that could help you build equity faster in a long-term asset — your home.

5| To build an emergency fund. Having enough cash saved to cover unforeseen expenses is critical and many experts recommend having enough money to cover your expenses for six months to a year.1 A great thing about pausing for an emergency fund is that it has a clear endpoint. If you need to save $8,000, you know how to get there, and once you hit that number, you can pivot right back to bulking up your retirement savings.

Your financial health on your journey to and through retirement is important. Contact a financial services professional if you’d like some suggestions on ways you can stay financially healthy.


What To Do When Retirement Is Right Around The Corner

If you’re like many people, the majority of your retirement strategy has been in planning and doing over decades. But what about when you’re almost ready to retire? Your strategy is likely to change.

Here are some things that you can keep in mind if your retirement is literally right around the corner, thanks to an article from the Motley Fool.1

One step is to make sure you take advantage of your flexible spending account (FSA) right up until you retire.

Remember, in 2020 you could funnel $2,750 in pre-tax dollars1 into your FSA and that number stayed steady in 2021.2

That money can be used for things like glasses, visits to the dentist, some medications, and doctor visits. Of course, if you don’t use the money in your FSA, you lose it.

Health savings accounts (HSAs) may be an even stronger play because the money you put into them doesn’t get forfeited.1 They can remain in your account and withdrawn without a penalty. You should note however, that the money you withdraw does become taxable income.

The 2021 HSA contribution limit is $3,600 for individuals and $7,200 for families.3 Also, people who are 55 and older can kick-in another $1,000.

When it comes to organizing your healthcare right before you retire, it’s also critical to have a thorough understanding of Medicare because there are plenty of options and nuances. Healthcare, especially Medicare, is a reason to meet with an experienced financial services professional who can help you make healthcare decisions that fit into your broader financial and retirement strategies.

Another thing to make sure you’re considering before you retire is inflation. You’ll want to make sure that you factor inflation into your savings goal to make sure your money is working just as hard for you 10 years into your retirement as it was on the day you retired.

Finally, it’s no secret that Social Security is an essential part of retirement for millions of Americans. Therefore, it’s important to understand what you’re likely to receive, when you should file, and ways you may be to increase your monthly payment.

Currently, the average monthly Social Security check is $1,478, which equates to $17,700 per year.1 You don’t need to have an economics degree to know that’s not going to come close to covering an extravagant retirement lifestyle. But remember, that’s just the average. If you were a high earner, your monthly check will be higher. And the current maximum monthly check is $2,788, good for $33,500 annually.1

If you don’t already have a clear idea of what your monthly benefit will be, you can visit the Social Security Administration’s website, at and set up an account to do so. One note here: The Social Security formula used to tabulate your monthly check considers your 35 highest-earning years. That means if you’re currently earning more than you ever have, and you like your job, you may want to at least consider working for another year or two because it will drive up your eventual Social Security payment.

There are many factors that you’ll want to consider before you make the leap into retirement. A financial services professional can help you. But most of all — congratulations! You have worked for years to reach this moment.


Enjoy it.






Simple Fixes That Can Improve Your Financial Situation Today

Finances are complicated. But these quick fixes aren’t.

Here are some ideas that you can implement — without a massive time investment or lifestyle change — and get results.1

Review your credit card statements. That doesn’t mean a quick once-over. You should sit down and spend some time analyzing what you’ve been purchasing. If you’re like nearly every other American, you’ve made some unnecessary or impulsive purchases. Don’t beat yourself up about this, because it happens to almost everyone. By taking the time to go through your credit card statements, you reduce the risk of forgetting a purchase or repeating the same purchasing mistakes in the future.

Look at your tax return. Tighten up your finances by looking at your tax return. If you’re getting a big tax return each year, you may want to consider adjusting your withholdings. This is an area where it might make a lot of sense to work with a financial services professional. They’ll have the experience to help you make tax and overall financial decisions that are going to be beneficial.


Bundle your insurance. You may be able to streamline your finances and keep a few more bucks in your pocket each month by putting all your insurance eggs in one basket. Working with one company for your home, auto and other insurance products may improve your rates. And let’s face it, the more business you do with one company, the better they’re likely to treat you. If you aren’t getting what you consider a fair rate, don’t hesitate to shop around. You only have to reduce your monthly payment by about $83 a month to save $1,000 annually — that’s real savings you could find in a hurry.

Reduce your entertainment spending. Many people can benefit from a quick call to the cable company to lower their rate. In a world where cord-cutting is becoming increasingly common, cable companies are going to play ball when it comes to keeping your business. Like with your insurance savings, don’t focus on what you’re saving per month; focus on what that monthly savings means over the course of a year or even longer.

Get a copy of your credit report.  Look it over closely and make sure all of your reported debt is accurate and that you don’t have anything outstanding that you’ve forgotten about. Your credit score is a valuable way to get a sense of your current financial standing. While it can take a long time to make a major change on your credit score, doing something today can have immediate results in turning it around.

Develop a strategy to eliminate debt. We all know that it can take a while to eliminate debt. But developing a plan to get there doesn’t take as long. Putting in place a strategy for debt elimination and improving your credit score is an excellent reason to meet with a financial services professional. A financial services professional will also be able to explain how your current financial habits and credit score may be affecting your ability to adequately prepare for retirement.

Take a moment to do one or more of these things today — you’ll thank yourself later.


Get the Last Five Years Before Retirement Right

We spend decades working our way toward retirement. The accumulation phase, when we’re gathering wealth before retirement, is generally considered to be decades long. But every stretch is important, including the five years right before you retire.

The truth is the last five years before retirement requires a different strategy and adjustments to match. Those last five years are, to borrow a cliché, the home stretch and you certainly want to turn into that home stretch with confidence.

When you’re in your 20s and 30s, retirement is something of an abstract concept. You know it’s out there, but you don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about it. But when you reach your late 50s or early 60s, you realized it’s real and it’s coming fast.1

In those later years, you can ask yourself a series of important questions: Have I socked enough money away? Have I worked with a financial services professional to discuss investments and allocations? Am I prepared to pay for long-term care costs? Should I consider a trust? Should I prioritize paying off my mortgage? Is my 401(k) going to provide me with enough retirement income?

The answers to those questions will help you address challenges in your last years before retirement. First, you’ll want to get a complete understanding of where you are financially at that time. You can take some time to assess how your money is allocated in terms of retirement accounts and investments, and your expected Social Security income and strategy.

And then there’s the most important question of all: When you combine all of these potential income sources, will they create a pot big enough to allow you to maintain your current or preferred lifestyle?

If you aren’t sure you’re as ready as you should be for retirement, it can make a lot of sense to work with a financial services professional. Chances are there’s an experienced pro in your community who can answer your questions, analyze your current strategy, offer suggestions and perhaps most importantly, calm your nerves.

And don’t forget that if you’re still five years away from retirement, there’s likely still time to adjust your allocations, how much you’re saving, and your tax strategies.

Another important question you should ask yourself is what you want your retirement to look like. Does your imagination wander to relaxing afternoons reading a book on the beach, or are guided tours through the great European sites and museums more your cup of tea? Or, maybe your preferred retirement isn’t so much grand adventures as it is time with your children and grandchildren without the worries and burdens of work.

You can start to make a plan for where you want to be, and where you want to go when you have a clearer picture of that in your head.

Finally, the last question you’ll want to ask yourself is if the timing is right. Everyone has a different vision for when they’ll retire. Some common ages are:

  • Age 59 ½, which is when you can begin avoiding penalties on withdrawals from retirement plans
  • Age 62, which is when you first become eligible for Social Security
  • And age 65, which is when you become eligible for Medicare

If you retire before you turn 65, you’ll want to have a plan for how you’ll get health insurance. This is no small consideration. No matter the option you choose, it’s imperative to have adequate insurance when you retire.

You spend so much of your working life working toward retirement. Make sure you nail the last five years so you can head into retirement on a high note.



Don’t Overlook Legacy Planning

You have to be willing to get a little dark to talk about legacy planning. But the sooner you do, the better off you may be.

The lack of a legacy plan can cause chaos and stress for the people who survive us. This topic was the subject of a recent article from Investopedia, “Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die.”1 The article paints a clear picture of what you should do to make your passing easier on the people you care about. A few of the key points are highlighted here.

A good place to start is to itemize your possessions. Grab a piece of paper and conduct a thorough inside and outside tour of your home to create a comprehensive inventory of all your valuable possessions.

The lack of a legacy plan can cause chaos and stress for the people who survive us. This topic was the subject of a recent article from Investopedia, “Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die.”1 The article paints a clear picture of what you should do to make your passing easier on the people you care about. A few of the key points are highlighted here.

A good place to start is to itemize your possessions. Grab a piece of paper and conduct a thorough inside and outside tour of your home to create a comprehensive inventory of all your valuable possessions.

The lack of a legacy plan can cause chaos and stress for the people who survive us. This topic was the subject of a recent article from Investopedia, “Estate Planning: 16 Things to Do Before You Die.”1 The article paints a clear picture of what you should do to make your passing easier on the people you care about. A few of the key points are highlighted here.

A good place to start is to itemize your possessions. Grab a piece of paper and conduct a thorough inside and outside tour of your home to create a comprehensive inventory of all your valuable possessions.

Preparing for Retirement as a Couple

It may seem obvious that preparing for retirement as a couple is a good idea, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to miss key components.


If you have a spouse or partner that you’ll be spending retirement with, you’re going to need to do a lot of planning. There are houses, kids, vacation funds, college funds, and inheritances to think about. Certainly, planning around those kinds of topics would have to be done together.


One guide suggests starting by outlining your big-picture goals together.1 Obviously, each member of a couple is going to have a few things that are very important to them but getting on the same page about goals will make the rest of the planning process easier. 

These conversations about the future are very important because they may lead to some surprising revelations. For example, one spouse may dream about retiring as early as possible while the other partner may be happy with their work and would like to continue with it for years into the future.


Or, in another scenario, one spouse may dream about a tidy beachfront condo with a balcony while the other partner may be set on the idea of taking an RV tour of all America’s beautiful national parks. The quicker each spouse spells out their ideal retirement, the sooner you can begin designing a retirement strategy that considers the kind of retirement you both want.


Another step in preparing for retirement as a couple is saving money together. In broad terms, each person is responsible for their retirement, and if both you and your spouse are working you may both have retirement accounts through your employers. Every couple is different, but it can be helpful to approach retirement preparation just like how you make financial decisions about things like buying a home or a car with your spouse. It probably makes sense for you to make savings decisions together.


That may involve contributing different amounts to each spouse’s 401(k), IRA contributions, and other decisions. Of course, another factor that may apply to couples is if one partner does not work outside of the home.

Of course, another factor that may apply to couples is if one partner does not work outside of the home. If that’s your situation, a spousal IRA may be a good way to go because it allows you to set aside funds in a tax-deferred account for the benefit of the unemployed spouse.


Strategizing when each spouse will claim their Social Security benefit is another very important thing that couples should do. Married couples are in a prime position to maximize lifetime Social Security income by carefully timing their individual and spousal claims. This planning element is dependent on you, your age, the age of your claim, and your spouse.


Beginning your planning several years before turning 62 — the earliest age that you can begin collecting Social Security — can make a tremendous difference for your retirement finances.


It might be beneficial to enlist the help of a financial service professional to help you identify more of the things you can consider as a couple. The most important part of going on a journey together may be preparing for that journey together.


Keeping your spouse or partner in mind during the preparation phase is a great way to do that.



Life Insurance Basics You Should Know

Many people use life insurance as a safety net that will allow family members to pay bills, go to college, or support a business in case of the insured’s untimely death.


Ultimately, the thinking is, if you’re the beneficiary on a life insurance policy, you could have some degree of protection for your financial future.


Life insurance is a topic that you may feel you know at least a little bit about, but if you’re like many people, once you dig a bit below the surface you can encounter some things that are a little more complicated. A recent Forbes article, “10 things life insurance beneficiaries should know”1 shared some things that may be beneficial for beneficiaries to know.

One of the first things a beneficiary should know is that they don’t need a physical copy of the policy to make a claim. This is an especially important point because after someone you care about has died, the last thing you need is the stress of trying to track down life insurance paperwork. After all, many people typically purchase a life insurance policy years before their passing, which just increases the likelihood of a policy getting lost in the shuffle. 


If you’re the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you only need to know the name of the life insurance company. From there, you can reach out and inform them that a customer has died, and then they’ll provide you with a claim form. 


While you won’t need the actual policy to file a claim, you will need to provide the life insurance company with a certified copy of the policyholder’s death certificate. Once you have the claim form, you should attach the death certificate to it. From there, you’ll be ready to submit the necessary paperwork to make your claim.


Another thing that beneficiaries should bear in mind is that a life insurance payout is tax-free. You read that right: Life insurance benefits are tax-free for the designated beneficiary, no matter how large the payout amount is. You don’t have to report life insurance proceeds as income unless the policy was transferred to you for cash or other “valuable consideration,” which does not apply to most beneficiaries.1

There are several different types of life insurance policies, which leads to another of the basics you’ll want to keep in mind: It’s possible that a beneficiary might not get the full policy face amount. If the policy was a cash value life insurance policy, and the policy’s owner took withdrawals against the cash value or loans that weren’t paid back, the life insurance company will reduce the payout amount accordingly.1

Let’s say the policy in question had a face value of $1 million, but the policy owner took a $50,000 loan from cash value and neglected to pay it back before their death. The life insurance payout will be reduced accordingly by $50,000, plus any loan interest. And, since a beneficiary may not even know about the policy, let alone the policy’s owner’s actions, this might come as quite a surprise.

That’s just one example of how the specifics of a life insurance policy can impact the beneficiary’s payout. If you’re unsure about your life insurance policy or you want someone to walk you through your options, it can be a great idea to start with a financial services professional.


Life insurance policies can be part of a wide-ranging retirement strategy that keeps your legacy in mind.




Please keep in mind that life insurance typically requires health underwriting and, in many instances, financial underwriting.  Guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Do Your Best to Avoid Common Retirement Mistakes

One of the secrets about building a retirement strategy that will help you reach your goals in retirement is avoiding common mistakes. It can be difficult because there are a lot of them. But avoiding those mistakes will help you feel confident that your finances will see you through your retirement and potentially even leave a legacy for your heirs.

One of the very first things you can do to avoid common retirement mistakes is to start saving right now. Every dollar you save today continues to potentially grow until you retire. As much as possible, cut back your spending a bit and put that money into your savings, because the payoff when you retire could be considerable.

Another mistake is not documenting your strategy to achieve your goals. A strong and wide-ranging financial strategy that factors your life expectancy, planned retirement age, where you’d like to live, your general health and your preferred retirement lifestyle can keep you focused and on track to the kind of retirement you truly aspire to.1

Just simply working can help you avoid another mistake: quitting your job too early. Many people leave a job without realizing they’re walking away from money in the form of employer contributions to their 401(k), profit-sharing, or stock options. And speaking of those contributions, you may want to consider maxing out your company match. If your employer offers a 401(k), sign up as soon as possible and make sure you’re maximizing the amount of money you contribute because that will allow you to enjoy a full employer match if one’s offered.

If your employer doesn’t provide a 401(k), consider a traditional or Roth IRA.

The next common retirement strategy mistake is investing unwisely, some people are comfortable with a self-directed investing approach because of the flexibility of choices it provides them.

Self-directed investing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you have the willpower to avoid biting on those “can’t-miss” stock tips that, in reality, might be pretty risky.1

As you get further into your journey toward retirement, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not rebalancing your portfolio. It can be a good idea to look at your portfolio on an annual or quarterly basis to make sure your asset mix is still performing.1 And, when we’re faced with the kind of economy we are right now, having someone to keep a keen eye on your portfolio is even more important.

And, the closer you are to that date when you can push away from your desk and call it a career, the more important it may become to review your portfolio allocation. Of course, that all depends on your unique journey to retirement.

Working with a financial service professional can potentially help you identify and avoid mistakes on unique to your journey to retirement.