A new year brings a fresh start, but it’s also a time for reflection. Looking back at what did and didn’t work last year can help you set better goals for 2023. This is true of many aspects of your life, including your retirement plan.
You may be decades away from leaving the workforce, but reviewing your savings strategy at least annually is key to remaining on track. Find a few minutes to take the following three steps below if you haven’t already done so.
1. Review your retirement plan
Ask yourself if any of your plans for retirement have changed during the last year. For example, you may have changed your mind about where you’d like to retire or developed a health condition that could force you to retire sooner than expected. These things may require you to go back to the drawing board and rethink how much you need to save for retirement.
Also, take a look at how much you were able to save for retirement during the last year and your current account balances. If you’ve been saving more than your target, you might be able to retire sooner than planned. If you weren’t able to save as much as you’d hoped, you might need to increase your retirement contributions in 2023 or delay retirement to give yourself additional time to save.
Make whatever changes you feel are necessary to keep yourself moving toward the future you want. Don’t put off small problems for later. It’s much easier to keep yourself on track if you make small adjustments annually rather than waiting until you’re on the verge of retirement.
2. Review your investments
In addition to looking at how much you’re saving and how much you think you’ll need, pay attention to how you’re investing your money. No matter your age, you want to diversify your funds among many investments so no single one weighs too heavily on your portfolio. But your asset allocation won’t stay the same over time.
Younger adults generally invest more of their money in stocks. These can be volatile in the short term but offer much greater earning potential than bonds. Losing money in the near term doesn’t matter that much at this stage because there’s plenty of time for the stocks to bounce back before you’ll need to withdraw your funds.
But as you age, consider moving more of your savings into fixed-income investments, like bonds, to protect your nest egg. They may not earn as much each year, but you won’t have to worry as much about significant losses on the eve of retirement.
You can alter your asset allocation yourself over time or use a target-date fund if you prefer to be more hands-off. These types of funds automatically adjust their assets over time to become more conservative as your chosen retirement year approaches.
Now is also a great time to consider dumping any investments that are no longer good fits. That doesn’t mean getting rid of a stock just because it had a bad quarter. Even the top-performing stocks have their ups and downs. Instead, focus on what you think the company’s long-term growth potential is. If you don’t think it has a bright future, it might be time to sell and invest in something new.
3. Decide where you’ll put your money in 2023
The types of retirement accounts you use determine how much you can set aside in 2023, whether you’ll get any help from an employer, what you can invest in, and what kind of a tax break you’ll get. It’s important to weigh all your options and come up with a plan that will maximize your money’s growth.
If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement account that offers a match, this is usually the best place to put your savings, at least at first. Once you’ve claimed the full match, you can decide whether to continue saving in that account or switch to a different type.
IRAs are always an option if you have earned income during the year or are married to someone who does. If you go with an IRA, you’ll have a lot of freedom to invest how you want and even choose whether to pay taxes on your funds now or in retirement.
Don’t overlook non-traditional retirement savings accounts, like health savings accounts (HSAs), or taxable brokerage accounts. HSAs can be a great place to keep money for retirement healthcare expenses because money spent for medical care is tax-free. But you’ll need a high-deductible health insurance plan to contribute to one.
Taxable brokerage accounts don’t offer the same tax breaks as retirement accounts, but they don’t have restrictions on how much you can save in a year or what you can invest in. You can take your money out whenever you want, as well, unlike retirement accounts, which generally impose a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re under age 59 1/2.
Once you’ve settled on a retirement savings strategy, begin putting it into practice. See if you can set up automatic retirement contributions so you don’t have to remember to make them manually. Then, schedule a date on your calendar for your next retirement check-in about six months to a year from now.
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