Retirement checklist: What to do from 35 to 55+

chart_retirement_savings.top.gif By Walter Updegrave, senior editor


(MONEY Magazine) -- The road to retirement is littered with distractions. In the hurly-burly of life, so many things compete for your attention that you can lose sight of what really matters most.

That's where MONEY's checklist comes in. We've created to-do lists for each of the main stages of retirement planning. Think of them as basic reminders you can set aside and refer to on occasion -- say, every year or so -- to make sure you're on the right track.

It needn't be a complicated list. Says Charles Farrell, a financial adviser and author of Your Money Ratios: "Simpler is better. Focus on a few key goals and you won't miss the forest for the trees."


TO DO: Mid-30s to early 40s

Goal: Develop the habit of saving.
Savings: 1.5 times your annual salary by age 35.

  • Take full advantage of my 401(k) match. Your employer-sponsored retirement plan is the easiest way to put your savings on autopilot. And if you take full advantage of your company match, you could earn 50% to 100% on your money before taking on any market risk.
  • Boost my 401(k) contribution. As your paycheck grows, your savings rate should too. Sign up for "auto escalation" to boost your contributions by a percentage point or so a year. If your 401(k) doesn't offer this feature, sock away half or more of each raise.
  • Find other tax-advantaged ways to save. Already maxing out on your 401(k)? If you make less than $120,000 -- or $177,000 for married couples filing jointly -- check out a Roth IRA. Already hitting the $5,000 annual IRA limit? Move on to investment options such as index funds that don't expose you to stiff tax bills.
  • Cover six months of expenses. Make sure you've got an emergency stash, so if you get laid off you won't be forced to dip into your 401(k) and IRAs. Put this money in a safe place like an FDIC-insured bank account or CD, or a high-quality money-market fund.
  • Invest for growth. You may feel skittish about stocks, given the recent market turmoil. But with retirement still two to three decades away, your best shot at building an adequate portfolio is to put most of your retirement savings -- 80% or so in your thirties -- in stocks and ride out turbulence along the way.



Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.79%3.84%
15 yr fixed2.90%2.95%
5/1 ARM3.23%3.23%
30 yr refi3.79%3.84%
15 yr refi2.98%3.01%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,164.95 -251.90 -1.45%
Nasdaq 4,635.24 -48.17 -1.03%
S&P 500 1,994.99 -26.26 -1.30%
Treasuries 1.68 -0.08 -4.34%
Data as of 6:35pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.15 -0.28 -1.81%
Apple Inc 117.16 -1.74 -1.46%
Microsoft Corp 40.40 -1.61 -3.83%
AT&T Inc 32.92 -0.04 -0.12%
General Electric Co 23.89 -0.19 -0.79%
Data as of Jan 30

Sections

After a terrible month for stocks, a star analyst says look to biotech, consumer and manufacturing companies. More

Many in the middle class, particularly the single and the elderly, won't see any tax breaks under Obama's MIddle Class Economics plan More

Here's where Seahawks and Patriots fans eat, shop, and play, according to data from ad tech startup PlaceIQ. More

Wix is advertising in the Super Bowl -- but it's just the latest tech unknown to make its debut there. More

401(k) balances reached a record high last year, thanks to a soaring stock market and larger contributions from workers participating in the savings plans, according to Fidelity. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.