Healthy Retirement 101: What to Do in Your 50s


When you’re in your 50s, you may feel as though you're barreling toward the finish line of your career. In fact, you have only 15 years or so left until retirement unless you want to keep working past 65. This can be a good time to take stock of what you want your retirement lifestyle to be like and start taking extra steps to finance it.

Healthy Retirement in your 50's

Play Catch-up

Don’t throw your hands up in despair if you find yourself facing the 50 benchmark and you haven’t yet saved anything toward retirement. “People are living a lot longer these days,” says John Risley, President of L.O. Thomas & Co., an investment firm in Linwood, New Jersey. “So 50 definitely isn’t too late to start.” In fact, enough people find themselves playing catch-up in their 50s that the tax code makes provisions for it. Federal law allows you to make additional pretax contributions to your IRA or 401k when you reach this age. The limits can change periodically and depend on whether your employer is contributing to your 401k, so check with a tax professional for current rules. The limits apply yearly, so you can invest extra annually.

Spread the Wealth Around

If you've established a 401k and possibly an IRA, you could ask a financial adviser about keeping them and investing in stocks and bonds as well for more rapid growth. A financial adviser can help ensure that you get the balance of your investments just right so you’re not risking too much at this stage of your life or compromising your earnings. Risley recommends value style investing at this time if you’re going to branch out into stocks and mutual funds. “This means you’re making investment decisions based on what a business is earning today,” he says. “Don’t speculate on how it might perform in the future.”

Get Creative

Consider whether you want to stop working entirely. If you prefer something more challenging to do with your mind than watching television, you might take on a second job or start up your own mini-enterprise. In either case, it should involve doing something you enjoy or always wanted to try your hand at – this way it won’t seem so much like work. The job or business can generate extra income that you can save up until your retirement date. If you keep up with it after you retire from your “regular” job, you’ll be earning income that might help you to maintain your lifestyle. Some of the money you’ve saved for retirement can remain invested and continue to grow.

It’s Not Just About Saving

Consider cutting back a little on your lifestyle. For example, if you’re maintaining a four-bedroom home but your kids are flying the nest one by one, ask yourself how long you’ll really need all that space. If you decide to sell it and buy a smaller place, you can realize up to $250,000 in profit without paying capital gains tax as of 2014, and double this amount if you’re married. The proceeds from the sale could help you to live comfortably in retirement. You might also want to think long and hard before you commit to a long-term loan at this point in your life, such as a second mortgage if you decide to stay in your home. Only you can say whether the burden of paying it off after you retire might be too cumbersome financially.

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