Saving for retirement checklist: How to save at every age

March 03, 2023

This checklist can help guide your retirement savings strategies in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

Are you saving enough for the retirement you want? Use our retirement calculator to test scenarios and see where you stand today and follow these age-based savings strategies to help you work toward the retirement lifestyle you want.


Saving for retirement at 20

Your 20s are important when it comes to setting yourself up for a financially strong retirement. Why? Time is on your side. At this stage, you can take advantage of compound interest — interest earned on the initial investment money and on the interest that investment accumulates.

401(k). Start funding a 401(k) if your employer offers one, especially if your employer matches your contributions. You can currently contribute up to $22,500 if you’re under 50.

Traditional IRA. If you don’t have the option to open a 401(k), consider an individual retirement account (IRA). The current maximum contribution is $6,500 if you’re under age 50. With a traditional IRA, keep in mind you’ll be taxed when you withdraw your funds.

Roth IRA. Another option is a Roth IRA. With a Roth IRA, you’re taxed upfront but not when you withdraw your funds, which can help you maximize your tax savings later on. The current maximum contribution is $6,500 if you’re under age 50.

Preparation. Begin building an emergency fund. The general rule of thumb is to have at least six months' worth of your household income set aside for emergencies.

Wage growth. Use pay raises to bump up your 401(k) or IRA contributions.

Saving for retirement at 30

You’ve likely established your career, and possibly bought property, gotten married and had children. You’re more confident in your earning potential and long-term goals.

Debt payments. Pay off higher interest debts, including college loans and credit cards. The money you free up can be put toward retirement savings.

Considerations for children. If you have or are planning on having children, consider a college savings plan to put money aside for education without affecting your retirement savings.

Increasing contributions. Max out or boost contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans; aim to set aside at least 10-15% of your pre-tax earnings for retirement.

Review fees. Different retirement accounts have different fees and expenses. You may want to work with a financial professional to streamline your portfolio’s fee structure.

Plan consolidation. If you’re changing jobs, check if you have the option to rollover any previous employer-sponsored plans into an IRA to avoid penalties.

Insurance, part 1. Now is the time to get life insurance if someone, such as a child, depends on your income.

Saving for retirement at 40

Retirement is no longer an abstract idea. You’re likely in your prime earning years, so if you’re just starting to save, do so aggressively. Time is still on your side.

Retirement contributions. If you haven’t already, consider meeting with a financial professional to help ramp up retirement planning, including maxing out contributions to retirement plans and coming up with an exact dollar amount for your final goal.

Large purchases. You might be considering a move to a larger home, remodeling your current home, buying a vacation home or other large purchase. Make sure to factor in your retirement plan when determining the impact of this purchase on your long-term savings.

Saving for retirement at 50

Retirement is just up ahead. It may be a good time to re-evaluate your investment strategy to align with your time horizon and feelings toward risk.

Contribution strategies. Take advantage of catch-up contributions. Individuals 50 and older can contribute an extra $1,000 to IRAs and $7,500 extra to a 401(k).

Risk adjustments. You may want to consider shifting your portfolio to more conservative stocks to capture growth while minimizing risk. Think about adding more bonds or other relatively safe investments.

Remaining debt. Talk with a financial professional about paying off any remaining debts, such as a mortgage, to see if that’s a good option for you.  

Insurance, part 2. Research insurance options such as disability and long-term care to safeguard your retirement nest egg from unexpected events.

59 1/2. At 59 1/2, you can start withdrawing from an IRA without penalty; if you don’t need it, avoid doing so. You likely want to save it for retirement.

Preparing for retirement at 60

Retirement is nearly here. At this stage, you have an opportunity to make final adjustments.

Income needs. Plan your monthly income stream for retirement. Make sure you consider taxes, life expectancy, additional income sources and your investment portfolio in your retirement withdrawal strategy.

Social Security. Calculate when you should start drawing Social Security benefits. The longer you can wait to withdraw, the higher the monthly payment you’ll receive.

Modifications. You may want to continue adjusting your portfolio’s asset allocation into more conservative investments. As a potential hedge against inflation, however, consider retaining some aggressive positions that offer the possibility of higher returns.

Employment. Not sure there’ll be enough cash? Think about ways to keep earning in retirement, such as consulting in your current field or part-time work, if necessary.

Estate planning. Review your will and other key documents with your attorney, ensuring your wishes are accurately reflected.

Living in retirement at 70

Wondering about that IRA and employer-sponsored retirement plan you’ve been growing for decades? At age 73, you’ll need to start taking mandatory withdrawals.

Budgeting. Consider consulting a financial professional if you have any budgetary concerns as you adjust to living in retirement. 

Communication. Have important financial conversations with family members about estate planning including wills, trusts and beneficiaries.

Analysis. If you haven’t already done so, consider moderating aggressive positions in favor of a more conservative investing strategy. But don’t overdo it. Some investment growth can help offset your drawdown of retirement accounts, so you remain funded throughout your retirement years.

Relaxation. Lastly, remember to enjoy your retirement! You’ve earned it.


Learn how we can help you plan and prepare for retirement.

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