As hard to believe as it might be, Gen X is moving into middle age. Though you’re still the same person who remembers the life-changing advent of MTV and acid wash jeans, you’re a verified adult now, with a career, kids and a future you need to plan. While most of Gen X isn’t quite ready to retire, it should be something to consider, as the average age of Generation X is now 40-54 years old.
Where you work might provide a pension or some other retirement option, but it might not. But regardless of your career, you need to focus your monetary efforts now so when the time comes, you can retire comfortably.
Retirement Planning for Gen X
We’ve got some tips that will help you make the choices now that will reap big benefits 10 or 20 years down the line. A little planning, saving and restructuring in your 40s can mean a huge return in your 60s and beyond.
Get out of debt
In your 40s, it’s likely you may still have some lingering credit card, student loan or other debt from your 20s and 30s. You want to pay that down as quickly as possible, as interest rates on credit debt are profoundly higher than interest rates on savings accounts. Why pay into a 1% savings account when you’ve got a credit card with a balance and a 20% interest rate?
If your credit is good enough, find a debt consolidation agency or get a loan from a reputable banker to lower your interest rate and get all your debt in one monthly payment. This will make it easier to establish what income is “extra” each month that you can then put towards a retirement goal.
Fix your taxes
There are plenty of people that simply allow the government to take the full amount of taxes each paycheck because at tax time, they get a huge refund. To them, this is like a hassle-free “savings” strategy, but if you do this, stop. You don’t earn interest on what the government takes and though you get it back in your refund, it would be better served in even a basic savings account. Imagine if you took that money each paycheck and put it in a market account that paid roughly 7%! The point is, don’t let the government hold onto your money; they’re notoriously bad with it.
While nice, a 401k is tax-deferred. This means that when you cash it out, it’s going to get taxed and you’ll lose some of it. Roth IRAs are tax-free investments that will let you keep your money if you wait to withdraw from it. You can also invest in permanent life insurance which provides long-term benefits at a lower rate.
Max out your 401k
Assuming your work matches your retirement contributions, then you need to max out your contributions. Take absolutely full advantage of the fact that your employer is willing to pay you extra money down the line. Even if they’re only matching to a certain percentage, it’s not a bad idea to put extra away each month. Consider it an ultra-savings plan that you are far less likely to dip into for a trip to Margaritaville.
Get a financial advisor
Once you get your debt under control, you might be tempted to jump headlong into investing. This isn’t a terrible idea, but if you have no experience, it could end up going very badly for you. Hire a financial planner to find out where your money is going to serve you best.
Create some passive income flows
If you’re particularly handy, you can make good money buying property cheap and either flipping it or renting it. Even if you’re not great with your hands, if you’re savvy you can find people selling rentable property cheaply. This serves as a monthly more-or-less passive income stream to bolster your income. You can also find an investment that pays out dividends; many credit unions in particular pay out monthly or yearly dividends to members and investors.
Put money into your work’s HSA
A lot of companies offer health savings accounts that you can contribute to pre-tax. You put this money into an account that you can use for medical, dental or other health-related expenses. The benefit here is that it lowers your taxable income and you still have access to your money. Unless you never get sick, you don’t need to pay the government more of your paycheck than necessary.
Retirement will be here before you know it
Sooner rather than later you will be kicking your feet up and living the sweet life. You want to make sure you have the money stowed away to live comfortably. A solid retirement foundation in your 40s means less anxiety about having a secure future, so lay that brickwork now.
Do you have any retirement tips that work for you that we didn’t address?
We’d love to hear about them in the comments!