If you want to retire at age 50, then you have to use a non-traditional strategy. While you can certainly invest using traditional retirement account approaches – like a 401(k) or IRA – that alone isn’t going to work. Removing money from those accounts before you reach age 59 ½ could lead to monetary penalties, which isn’t ideal. As a result, you need to invest a bit differently, ensuring you have access to the cash you need. If you want to make sure you are ready for retirement at age 50, here are some tips that can help.
Start with Traditional Retirement Accounts
Traditional retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s do come with some benefits, usually when it comes to taxes. You may be able to deduct your contributions or, if you go with a Roth, won’t have to pay taxes on withdrawals. Those can both be very big deals financially.
While you can’t pull the money out penalty-free until your at least 59 ½ in most cases, that doesn’t mean these shouldn’t factor into your investment plan. You can simply let these accounts grow until you do reach full eligibility age, allowing them to become a source of income later down the road.
It is important to note that there are also some exceptions that allow you to avoid the early withdrawal penalty. For example, if you do go with a Roth IRA, you do have the option of tapping into your contributions early. Since you paid taxes on that money, you can withdraw those contributions at any time. However, if you tap into the earnings, you will get stuck with the penalty.
There’s also the substantially equal periodic payments (SEPP) exception. With that, if you make early withdrawals from a qualifying plan, including an IRA or 401(k), in equal amounts over the course of five years (or until you turn 59 1.2), you won’t have to pay a penalty. However, if any of those withdrawals deviate from the others, you might end up triggering the penalty.
Invest in Brokerage Accounts
After you’ve covered your basic retirement contributions, it’s time to move onto a brokerage account. Here, you can invest freely. You can add as much money as you’d like and make withdrawals whenever you want. As a result, they can be a solid choice for funding the starting years of your early retirement, essentially covering the gap until you can tap into your retirement fund.
When you choose investments, there are two points you need to cover. First, as with all investing, diversification is your ally. It provides you with some protection against the unexpected, including financial downturns or company or sector struggles.
Second, you need to be as aggressive as you can tolerate. You are investing for a shorter period than if you were aiming to retire at a traditional age. As a result, growth needs to be a core focus.
Now, this doesn’t mean investing to the point that makes you uncomfortable. If the idea of going beyond an 80-20 stock-to-bond portfolio split keeps you awake at night, then it isn’t a good move for you.
However, if your comfortable with taking on some risk, then push it a bit. If 80-20 doesn’t work for you, then maybe 70-30 does. Just understand that growth needs to be a focus if you want to retire early.
Additionally, understand that being aggressive doesn’t mean being irresponsible. Do your research before you choose an investment. Focus on diversification and rebalance your portfolio when the need arises. The goal is to be bold but smart about your approach. If you need to adjust your ratio as you get older to remain comfortable, then explore that option.
Add a Health Savings Account For Retirement At Age 50
As people age, their medical expenses tend to rise. As a result, it can be wise to plan for this eventuality, and a health savings account (HSA) can help you do that.
With a health savings account, withdrawals for medical expenses can be made as needed. What you don’t spend in a given year rolls over, so you can stash cash while you’re working, leaving it available for your post-retirement years. Plus, there are potential tax benefits, including deductible contributions and tax-free growth.
Additionally, if you have money in an HSA and turn 65, you’re free to treat it like a regular retirement account. You don’t have to worry about how you use the funds, as the account essentially starts to work like an IRA at that point.
Now, you can only open an HSA if you have a high deductible health plan. But if you’re in that boat, you might as well make the most of it and use it to plan for your future.
Do you have any other tips that can help someone invest for retirement at age 50? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Tamila McDonald is a U.S. Army veteran with 20 years of service, including five years as a military financial advisor. After retiring from the Army, she spent eight years as an AFCPE-certified personal financial advisor for wounded warriors and their families. Now she writes about personal finance and benefits programs for numerous financial websites.