Our money needs — and demands — are constantly shifting as we age. By the time we reach our 60s, if we’ve planned well, we have a sizable nest egg that will support us into our older years as we scale back or stop work altogether. That doesn’t mean it’s time to take a hands-off approach to money, however. In fact, many financial advisers say the pre-retirement years comprise a critical period when it comes to making investing, spending and saving decisions.
“Everyone faces financial challenges at different points in life. The older you get, the less wiggle room you have, with fewer options to right your past wrongs,” says Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and founder of Safran Wealth Advisors based in New York. Older adults should also be on guard against potential cognitive decline, financial abuse and increased costs associated with declining health, all while planning to make accumulated nest eggs last a lifetime.
To compile the following list of money steps to take before your 70th birthday, U.S. News asked members of the Financial Planning Association, a Denver-based organization with over 17,000 certified financial planners, to share their best tips. Here are their suggestions:
Review your current financial outlook. Safran suggests reviewing all of your current (and future) assets, income and expenses to make sure they are sustainable during retirement. If they aren’t, ask yourself what needs to be done, such as reducing debt, working for longer or paying off your mortgage. She urges people to budget conservatively for future costs, which might include additional health care or home upgrades and maintenance.
Map out any extra big expenses. If you’re planning to take a big trip to Machu Picchu, for example, then it makes sense to plan ahead for that expense, says Neal Van Zutphen, a certified financial planner in Tempe, Arizona. To figure out just how you might spend your time over the next decade, imagine life in your 70s and take time now to explore activities such as volunteering, mentoring or taking classes you might also enjoy later, he adds.
Lock down your estate plans. Consider your legacy, says Juan C. Ros, a certified financial planner at the Lamia Financial Group in Thousand Oaks, California. He suggests having not only a will and living trust in place, but also an advance directive for health care and power of attorney for finances. “Seniors approaching 70 should also double check their beneficiary designations in their company retirement plans, their individual retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, bank accounts and life insurance policies,” he suggests. He says he often notices clients have no beneficiaries or outdated ones listed.
Tell your adult children where important documents are located. Just in case you become incapacitated and need tohand over the reins to a family member, you’ll want to share the names of the financial professionals whom you work with, says Nivedita Persaud, a certified financial planner and managing director at Transition Planning & Guidance in Atlanta. On a similar note, she suggests using your smartphone to make short videos that share your money advice for your children and grandchildren. “It’s a great way to pass on financial literacy and values,” she says.
Consolidate retirement accounts. If you’ve amassed multiple retirement accounts throughout your career, as many people do, then it might be a good idea to consolidate them, says Taylor Schulte, certified financial planner and founder of Define Financial in San Diego. “When required minimum distributions begin at age 70½, clients are relieved when they only have to deal with one financial institution to calculate their [required minimum distributions] each year,” he says. “It also helps [them] simplify their life and feel more organized as they transition into retirement.”
Delay Social Security. If you think you’ll reach the average lifespan of 84 years (for men age 65 today) or 86 (for women age 65 today), according to the Social Security Administration, delaying Social Security until age 70 could pay off. You receive a higher monthly payout if you wait, explains Steve Burkett, a certified financial planner in Bothell, Washington. He adds that you might want to consider a Roth conversion if you are currently in a low income bracket because of retirement. “Consider locking in that tax rate and converting some IRA money to Roth IRA money, which will help you pay a lower tax rate now — and lower your future required minimum distributions subject to potentially higher future tax rates,” he says.
Keep investing. “Buy stocks to beat inflation,” says Scott Ranby, a certified financial planner at Kuhn Advisors in Denver. “Once you reach age 70, you’ve still got plenty of life ahead of you — some 14 to 16 years of life expectancy. Avoid the temptation to get overly conservative with your investments, and keep a good portion in stocks,” he says. That’s because stocks are more likely to stay ahead of inflation than cash or bonds, which can help you maintain your standard of living.
Start giving money away. If you begin formally gifting money to your children or grandchildren now, it could help reduce your family estate taxes in the long run, says Brian Power, a certified financial planner at Gateway Wealth Management in Westfield, New Jersey. “They most likely need the help,” he says, especially if adult children are in the high-cost years of raising a family.
Travel now. Yes, it’s expensive, but spending money on trips now can be a smart idea, too. “Your health may not always be with you in retirement, so don’t procrastinate big life experiences. Incorporate at least one bucket list item into your financial plan before you turn 70,” says Michael H. Baker, a certified financial planner based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who works primarily with baby boomers.
Spend time with those you love. On the same carpe diem note, Leslie Beck, a certified financial planner and principal at Compass Wealth Management in Wood Ridge, New Jersey, encourages clients to spend time with their grandchildren while they’re still relatively young and healthy. “The memories made will be precious,” she says.