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Top 10 Retirement Strategies You Should Know in 2024

Saving for retirement is one of the most important financial goals you can set. It ensures that you have the resources to live comfortably and maintain your standard of living once you stop working. The importance of retirement planning cannot be overstated; without adequate savings, you risk facing financial challenges in your golden years.

The type of retirement savings you should pursue can vary depending on the stage of your career and income level. For younger individuals, time is on your side. You can take advantage of compound interest, where your investment returns generate their own returns, leading to exponential growth over time. Contributing to employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s and opening an IRA or Roth IRA are excellent strategies for those early in their careers.

As you progress in your career and your income grows, it’s essential to reassess your retirement strategy. Mid-career professionals should focus on maximizing contributions to their retirement accounts, while also being mindful of their risk tolerance and asset allocation. Diversifying investments and considering tax-advantaged accounts, such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), can provide additional benefits.

For those approaching retirement, the focus shifts to protecting and preserving your accumulated wealth. Strategies such as minimizing fees, considering annuities, and delaying Social Security benefits become increasingly important. Developing a comprehensive retirement withdrawal plan is crucial to ensure your savings last throughout retirement.

Regardless of where you are in your career, it’s never too early or too late to start planning for retirement. In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 retirement strategies that can help you build a secure financial future.

What is a Retirement Strategy?

A retirement strategy is a comprehensive plan designed to help individuals save and invest money during their working years to ensure financial security and stability in retirement. This plan encompasses various financial tools and methods, including retirement accounts, investment portfolios, tax-advantaged savings options, and withdrawal strategies.

The primary goal of a retirement strategy is to accumulate sufficient funds to cover living expenses, healthcare costs, and other needs throughout one’s retirement years, allowing for a comfortable and worry-free lifestyle. By tailoring a retirement strategy to their specific financial situation and goals, individuals can effectively prepare for the future and make informed decisions about their retirement savings.

What are the Top 10 Retirement Strategies?

Knowing your options is the best first approach to retirement planning because it allows you to make informed decisions that align with your financial goals and circumstances. Understanding the various strategies available ensures that you can optimize your savings, minimize risks, and maximize your retirement income. By exploring these top 10 retirement strategies, you’ll be better equipped to create a robust plan that secures your financial future.

1. Contribute the Maximum to a 401(k)

Maximizing contributions to your 401(k) plan involves saving up to the annual contribution limit set by the IRS. For 2024, this limit is $23,000 — up from $22,500 in 2023 — with an additional $7,500 catch-up contribution allowed for individuals aged 50 and older. This means you can contribute a total of $30,500 if you’re eligible for catch-up contributions.

By doing so, you not only increase your retirement savings but also benefit from tax advantages such as tax-deferred growth, where your investments can grow without being taxed until you withdraw the money in retirement.

This strategy is particularly beneficial for employees of companies that offer 401(k) plans, especially those with employer matching contributions. Younger employees who start contributing early can benefit significantly from the power of compound interest over time.

Additionally, individuals in higher tax brackets gain the advantage of reducing their taxable income by making pre-tax contributions. Those closer to retirement age can also benefit from catch-up contributions, allowing them to boost their savings as they approach their retirement years.

Significant Things of Note:

  • Employer Matching Contributions: Many employers offer matching contributions to your 401(k) plan, often matching a percentage of your contributions up to a certain limit. This is essentially free money and can significantly enhance your retirement savings.
  • Tax Advantages: Contributions to a traditional 401(k) are made with pre-tax dollars, reducing your taxable income for the year. This can lead to substantial tax savings, particularly for individuals in higher tax brackets.
  • Automatic Contributions: Many 401(k) plans allow for automatic payroll deductions, making it easier to consistently save for retirement without the need to manually transfer funds.
  • Investment Options: 401(k) plans typically offer a range of investment options, allowing you to choose a mix of assets that align with your risk tolerance and retirement goals.
  • Withdrawal Rules: Be aware that withdrawals from a 401(k) before age 59½ are generally subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty in addition to regular income taxes. Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must begin at age 73, ensuring you start drawing down your retirement savings.

2. Open an IRA or Roth IRA (or Both)

Opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a Roth IRA involves setting up a tax-advantaged account designed to help you save for retirement.

Traditional IRAs allow you to make tax-deductible contributions with your investments growing tax-deferred until you withdraw the money in retirement, at which point it is taxed as regular income.

Roth IRAs, on the other hand, are funded with after-tax dollars, meaning contributions are not tax-deductible, but qualified withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.

For 2024, the contribution limit for both types of IRAs is $7,000 — up from $6,500 in 2023 — with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution for those aged 50 and over.

Considerations Based on Income:

  • Traditional IRA: Beneficial for individuals who expect to be in a lower tax bracket during retirement than they are currently. This allows them to take advantage of the immediate tax deduction and defer taxes until retirement when their tax rate may be lower.
  • Roth IRA: Ideal for younger individuals or those in lower tax brackets who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket in retirement. The Roth IRA’s tax-free withdrawals can be particularly advantageous in this scenario. It also benefits individuals who prefer the flexibility of not having required minimum distributions (RMDs).

Significant Things of Note:

  • Tax Advantages: Traditional IRAs offer tax-deductible contributions, reducing your taxable income in the year you contribute. Roth IRAs offer tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals, which can be highly beneficial in retirement.
  • Income Limits: Roth IRAs have income limits that may restrict high earners from contributing directly. In 2024, the ability to contribute to a Roth IRA begins to phase out at modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) of $138,000 for single filers and $218,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • Investment Flexibility: Both types of IRAs typically offer a wide range of investment options, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs, allowing you to tailor your portfolio to your risk tolerance and retirement goals.
  • Early Withdrawal Rules: Withdrawals from a traditional IRA before age 59½ may incur a 10% penalty and are subject to regular income tax. Roth IRAs offer more flexibility; contributions can be withdrawn at any time without penalty, but earnings withdrawn before age 59½ may be subject to taxes and penalties unless certain conditions are met.
  • Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): Traditional IRAs require RMDs starting at age 73, while Roth IRAs do not have RMDs during the account holder’s lifetime, providing greater flexibility in managing retirement income.

3. Be Mindful of Risk Tolerance and Asset Allocation

Being mindful of risk tolerance and asset allocation involves understanding how much risk you are comfortable taking with your investments and strategically distributing your assets across various investment types (e.g., stocks, bonds, real estate) to balance potential returns and risks.

Risk tolerance is influenced by factors such as your age, financial goals, and investment experience.

Asset allocation is the practice of diversifying your investment portfolio to optimize growth potential while managing risk. It typically involves a mix of equities, fixed-income securities, and other assets tailored to your specific risk tolerance and investment timeline.

Younger individuals with a longer time horizon until retirement can generally afford to take more investment risks, as they have time to recover from market downturns. They benefit from a higher allocation to growth-oriented assets like stocks.

Those in the middle of their careers should balance growth and stability, often adjusting their asset allocation to include a mix of stocks and bonds to mitigate risk while still pursuing growth.

Individuals nearing retirement should prioritize capital preservation, reducing exposure to high-risk assets and increasing allocations to more stable investments like bonds and cash equivalents.

Significant Things of Note:

  • Diversification: Diversifying your investments across different asset classes can reduce risk and enhance returns over time. This means not putting all your eggs in one basket and spreading investments across various sectors and geographies.
  • Regular Rebalancing: Periodically rebalancing your portfolio is essential to maintain your desired asset allocation. This involves adjusting your investments to ensure that the allocation remains aligned with your risk tolerance and investment goals.
  • Age-Based Strategies: Younger investors might adopt a more aggressive strategy with a higher percentage of stocks, while older investors might prefer a conservative approach with a higher percentage of bonds and other low-risk assets.
  • Market Conditions: Stay informed about market conditions and economic factors that could impact your investments. This knowledge can help you make informed decisions about adjusting your asset allocation.

4. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA)

Opening a Health Savings Account (HSA) involves setting up a tax-advantaged account designed to help you save for medical expenses. HSAs are available to individuals enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).

Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible, the funds grow tax-free, and withdrawals used for qualified medical expenses are also tax-free.

For 2024, individuals enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) have an annual HSA contribution limit of $4,150. For family coverage, the HSA contribution limit is $8,300. These amounts represent an approximate 7% increase over the previous year’s contribution limits.

Who Benefits Most from an HSA?

  • Those enrolled in HDHPs can take advantage of HSAs to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses and reduce their taxable income.
  • Individuals looking to save for future healthcare costs, including those in retirement, can benefit from the triple tax advantages of an HSA.
  • People who anticipate lower healthcare expenses in the near term can use an HSA to grow their savings tax-free for future medical needs or as a supplemental retirement account.

Significant Things of Note:

  • Triple Tax Benefits: HSAs offer a unique combination of tax-deductible contributions, tax-free growth, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses. This makes them one of the most tax-advantaged savings options available.
  • Investment Opportunities: Many HSA providers offer investment options for account balances above a certain threshold. This allows you to grow your HSA funds through investments similar to those in a retirement account.
  • Qualified Medical Expenses: HSA funds can be used for a wide range of qualified medical expenses, including deductibles, copayments, prescription drugs, and certain long-term care costs. After age 65, you can also use HSA funds for non-medical expenses without penalty, though they will be subject to regular income tax.
  • Portability: Unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), HSA funds roll over year to year and remain with you even if you change jobs or health plans. This portability makes HSAs a valuable long-term savings tool.

5. Beware of Retirement Fund Fees

Being aware of retirement fund fees involves understanding and monitoring the various costs associated with your retirement accounts. These fees can include expense ratios, management fees, administrative fees, and transaction costs.

High fees can significantly erode your investment returns over time, reducing the overall growth of your retirement savings. By choosing low-cost investment options and regularly reviewing the fees charged by your retirement accounts, you can minimize these expenses and maximize your savings.

6. Get an Annuity

Getting an annuity involves purchasing a financial product from an insurance company that provides a steady stream of income in retirement. Annuities can be structured in various ways, such as fixed, variable, or indexed, to meet different retirement income needs.

  • Fixed annuities offer guaranteed payments
  • Variable annuities provide payments based on the performance of underlying investments
  • Indexed annuities tie returns to a specific market index.

Individuals who are risk-averse and seek a guaranteed income stream in retirement will find fixed annuities particularly beneficial.

Those without traditional pensions can use annuities to create a similar income stream, providing financial security.

Annuities are also suitable for individuals who are concerned about outliving their savings, as they can provide income for life.

Significant Things of Note:

  • Annuities often come with various fees, including administrative fees, mortality and expense risk charges, and investment management fees for variable annuities.
  • Annuities are typically illiquid investments, meaning it can be difficult to access your principal without incurring penalties or surrender charges.
  • Annuity earnings are tax-deferred, meaning you won’t pay taxes on the growth until you start receiving payments. However, withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, and early withdrawals (before age 59½) may incur a 10% penalty.
  • Some annuities, known as longevity insurance or deferred income annuities, start payments later in life, such as at age 80 or 85 —these can be a good option for ensuring income in the later stages of retirement.

7. Take Advantage of Saver’s Credit

The Saver’s Credit, also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, is a tax credit that incentivizes low- to moderate-income individuals to contribute to their retirement accounts.

It applies to contributions made to a variety of retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, IRAs, and other qualified plans. By reducing the amount of tax you owe, the Saver’s Credit directly increases your savings for retirement.

2023 Saver’s Credit Overview (Provided by the IRS)

Credit RateMarried Filing JointlyHead of HouseholdAll Other Filers*
50% of your contributionAGI not more than $43,500AGI not more than $32,625AGI not more than $21,750
20% of your contribution$43,501- $47,500$32,626 – $35,625$21,751 – $23,750
10% of your contribution$47,501 – $73,000$35,626 – $54,750$23,751 – $36,500
0% of your contributionmore than $73,000more than $54,750more than $36,500

Who Benefits Most from the Saver’s Credit?

  • Low- to Moderate-Income Earners: Individuals and households with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) below certain thresholds benefit the most.
  • New Savers: Those who are just beginning to save for retirement can take advantage of the credit to jumpstart their savings and reduce their tax liability simultaneously.
  • Tax-Conscious Investors: Individuals who are focused on minimizing their tax burden while maximizing their retirement savings will find this credit particularly valuable.

8. Delay Social Security Benefits

Delaying Social Security benefits means postponing the start of your benefits beyond the earliest eligibility age of 62 up to the maximum age of 70. By doing so, you can increase your monthly benefit amount.

For each year you delay taking Social Security beyond your full retirement age (which ranges from 66 to 67, depending on your birth year), your benefit increases by approximately 8% until you reach age 70.

This strategy can significantly enhance your retirement income, providing a larger financial cushion during your retirement years.

9. Hedge Against Inflation

Hedging against inflation involves investing in assets that typically increase in value or provide returns that outpace inflation, thereby protecting your purchasing power over time. Inflation erodes the value of money, meaning the same amount will buy fewer goods and services in the future. To counter this, you can include investments in your retirement portfolio that are likely to grow in value with or above the inflation rate. Common inflation hedges include stocks, real estate, Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), and commodities like gold.

Historically, inflation has clocked in at about 3%. So if you purchase something with $100, it could cost you $181 in 20 years. By the end of January 2024, inflation was running at 3.1%. Inflation can be a significant hurdle that your investments have to top and is worth factoring in when you decide on a retirement strategy to follow. That’s why it’s crucial to come up with a savings strategy and contribute as much as you can toward low-fee investments. By incorporating a variety of inflation-resistant investments into your portfolio and maintaining a robust savings strategy, you can safeguard your financial future and maintain your standard of living throughout retirement.

10. Develop a Retirement Plan Withdrawal Strategy

Developing a retirement plan withdrawal strategy involves creating a systematic approach to withdrawing funds from your retirement accounts to ensure that your savings last throughout your retirement. This strategy considers factors such as your expected lifespan, retirement goals, tax implications, and the sequence of withdrawals from various accounts (e.g., taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts).

The goal is to maximize your retirement income while minimizing taxes on savings accounts and avoiding the risk of outliving your savings.

Significant Things of Note:

  • A commonly used guideline suggests withdrawing 4% of your retirement savings in the first year of retirement and adjusting that amount annually for inflation. This rule aims to provide a steady income while preserving the longevity of your portfolio.
  • Prioritize withdrawing funds from taxable accounts first, then tax-deferred accounts (like traditional IRAs and 401(k)s), and finally tax-free accounts (like Roth IRAs).
  • Once you reach age 73, you must start taking RMDs from traditional IRAs and 401(k) accounts. Failing to take RMDs can result in significant tax penalties. Plan your withdrawals to meet these requirements.

Securing Your Future with the Top Retirement Strategies

Planning for retirement is a critical step in securing your financial future and ensuring a comfortable and worry-free retirement.

By understanding and implementing these top 10 retirement strategies, you can build a robust retirement plan that aligns with your goals. At the end of the day, it’s important to start early, stay informed, and make strategic decisions to protect and grow your retirement savings.

If you want to speak with a professional about your retirement plan get in touch with our team of Tax Professionals and CPAs. Together, we can carve a path forward to help ensure you have a solid retirement foundation in place.

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