Six Money Milestones to Reach by Age 65

Once you approach your retirement, you may qualify for new financial benefits.

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Money milestones are one of the ways to reach financial freedom. Most of us want to be able to retire and live comfortably. This goal is not always easy to achieve, for any number of reasons, so milestones can lead the way. "It's important to understand there is no one-size-fits-all approach to financial milestones," explains Lauren Wybar, CFP, senior financial advisor with Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. "Rather, they will be dependent upon each individual's unique set of goals. Someone who wants to retire at 35, for example, will have a very different set of milestones than someone who never wants to retire." But, since most people intend to retire by age 65, the following milestones will reflect that path.

Budget Planning

Budgeting is a skill that people should learn as early as their 20s, but anyone can learn to budget at any point in their lives. Wybar says that budgeting is one of the best ways to set ourselves up for financial success. When budgeting, she says to prioritize savings for short-term goals, like paying off student loans, and long-term goals, like retirement. Budgets will often need to be re-evaluated over time, so do not feel as if the current budget will be the forever budget.

401(K) or IRA

"In your 30s, if you haven't started already, consider a 401(k) or IRA to save for retirement. Because compounding is so powerful, contributing to a retirement account as early as possible gives you more flexibility later on in life," says Wybar. "If your company provides a 401(k) match, definitely take advantage of it." The earlier we start with a retirement savings plan, the more money that would be available in the account by the time we retire. It is possible to start later in life, so find out what options are available and get started. By age 65, there should be a small nest egg.

Estate Planning

By our 40s, we should start looking into estate planning. Estate plans are not just for multi-millionaires, Wybar says, but ensure that our assets are handled the way we want when we pass away. This is especially good to go for those who have children. "Start by making sure you've selected beneficiaries for your financial accounts," says Wybar. "Then review estate planning tools—such as trusts and wills—and decide how these work best for your circumstances. Consider consulting with an estate planning attorney."

Financial Re-Evaluation

We should assess our financial situations within five to 10 years of our desired retirement age. In some cases, we may want to consider working with a financial planner to make adjustments. "If you are off course, you may want to explore other time horizons or dive deeper into budget planning in order to identify how you can save even more towards retirement," says Wybar.

Health Care/Long-Term Care Planning

Our bodies change as we grow older, and so do our healthcare needs. By our 60s, we should have developed a financial plan for our advanced care. "Plan strategically but separately for these two types of care," she says. "Even though the need for long-term care is hugely variable—some people won't require it at all and others may need it extensively—it's still important to plan for because of the potentially high cost." Research places that provide health care and long-term care and visit locations to meet caretakers and facilities in person. Have a trusted family member or friend go along as well.

Tax-Efficient Strategy for Retirement

"In your 70s and beyond, you may want to work with a financial planner to identify an optimal and tax-efficient strategy for spending down from your assets to meet your needs," says Wybar. "It is also important to continue to review and (potentially) update estate planning documents and beneficiary designations about every three to five years years."

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