If you have reached the grand old age of 50 — or even a few years beyond — you’ve probably had a moment of clarity about your financial picture. Perhaps you’ve taken stock of your retirement nest egg and found it a bit wanting.
If so, don’t panic! There is plenty of time to build a kitty for your golden years that will grow into a few hundred thousand dollars of savings — or even more.
Following are six ways to boost your savings efforts so you can retire with a greater sense of security.
Take advantage of the retirement catch-up provision
Uncle Sam wants to add a little extra rocket fuel to your retirement savings efforts. If you are 50 or older, you can take advantage of “catch-up” provisions in the tax code that allow you to contribute more to your retirement accounts.
For example, if you have a 401(k) plan, you can contribute an extra $6,000 per year once you turn 50. If you have an IRA — Roth or traditional — you can add an extra $1,000 to your contribution.
These amounts can make a big difference over time. The amount you can contribute to these retirement vehicles changes over time, but for the sake of argument, let’s say 401(k) contributions are capped at the 2018 levels for the next 15 years: $18,500 annually, with another $6,000 for those who are 50 and older.
Contribute the maximum of $18,500 over 15 years — ages 50 to 65 — and a 7 percent annual return nets you nearly $500,000.
Contribute the maximum plus the extra $6,000 for 15 years, and you end up with more than $650,000.
Max out on your employer match
We’ve already talked about the huge benefit of contributing the maximum to your 401(k) plan. But even if you can’t contribute that much, at least make sure you are stuffing enough into your 401(k) to get the employer match.
You’ve probably heard it a million times, but this really is free money. Typically, companies will match a percentage of your salary — perhaps 2.5 percent — at something like 50 cents on the dollar. So, if you make $50,000, that’s an extra $625 toward retirement each year that you get for doing nothing but saving a bit more.
Sign up for a health savings account
The health savings account — more commonly called an “HSA” — might just be the best hidden secret in the entire tax code. An HSA is triple tax-advantaged:
- Contributions can be deducted from your taxes for the tax year during which contributions are made.
- Any gains on your contributions are tax-free.
- Withdrawals are tax-free when used to pay for qualifying health care expenses.
In other words, you will never owe taxes on money that goes through an HSA, provided that you follow the IRS rules for HSAs.
Even better, you can again make a catch-up contribution. However, this time you must be 55 or older to take advantage of this catch-up tool, which is capped at $1,000 for 2018.
Open a self-employed 401(k)
We live in the age of the “gig economy,” where millions of workers earn a living as freelancers or contractors. Millions of other workers own small businesses, many of which are one-person shops.
Fortunately, working on your own does not preclude you from opening a 401(k) account. Entrepreneurs and solo workers can open a self-employed 401(k) account, more commonly known as a solo 401(k).
These accounts allow you to add massive amounts of money into your retirement savings every year. For example, you can make the same $18,500 in employee salary deferral contributions as any other employee. But in addition, you can make a profit-sharing contribution of up to 25 percent of compensation, to a maximum of $55,000 in 2018.
If you are self-employed, the solo 401(k) might be the single best way to supersize your nest egg.
Become a landlord
Investing in real estate long has been a staple strategy for people of modest means to retire in relative comfort. One of the best ways to grow your income is to purchase a rental home or duplex and let your tenants pay down the mortgage over a number of years.
Yes, owning rental properties is fraught with risk. You have to screen tenants carefully to make sure you don’t end up with a trouble-maker. And even if you do all of your due diligence, things can still go wrong.
But life as a landlord is one way to make money without actually having to work for it day in and day out.
And here is a bonus tip for people who really want to pad their bottom line: When you sell a rental, you have to pay capital gains tax on the profit — unless you have lived in the property for two of the five years prior to selling the unit.
So, if you can stomach it, move into the property for a couple of years before selling. This could save you tens of thousands of dollars in taxes.
Get a side gig
By the time you are 50, you’ve accumulated a lot of wisdom and smarts, both personally and professionally. As pointed out in a previous article from Money Talks News:
The good news is that your many years of hard work and experience, no matter what field you spent them in, can still be valuable once you retire. But now, you’re in a position to leverage those skills in a new way, or try your hand at something completely different.
For most people, 50 is a little early to retire. But you can still read through the story above for some pointers on how to make money now and in the years to come.
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