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- People who want to retire within 10 years would be smart to keep saving — but also to turn a sharp eye to their expenses.
- Second homes, student loans, and expensive indulgences like luxury cars all divert money from retirement savings.
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If you want to retire in the next 10 years, one of the most important things to do is to save, save, save.
Then save some more.
The flip side of that, though, is to spend less, which is where we tend to get into trouble. "I think that as a culture, we love instant gratification, and saving for retirement is the opposite of that," said Sophia Bera, CFP®, founder of Gen Y Planning. "Many people are so focused on affording their short-term goals that it’s easy to avoid saving for retirement."
Avoiding something doesn’t make it go away, though, and if retirement within the decade is your goal, you may need to start making some serious changes right now. Here are three places to start:
Expense 1: Owning a second home
If you’ve always envisioned sitting on the porch at your vacation lake house as the sun sets during the summer, Bera says to proceed cautiously.
"Owning a second home is usually a financial mistake, and could set you off track in being able to retire when you want to," she said. When Bera worked in traditional financial planning, she said the clients who were snowbirds or who had cabins somewhere and were trying to carry multiple mortgages were often the ones who were behind on their retirement savings. "If it’s not an investment property — that you’re actually making money from — consider selling it ASAP," she said. "It’s far cheaper to take vacations than it is to own a second home."
As for your first home, Bera says it might be worth considering refinancing a 30-year mortgage to a shorter one, or one with a lower interest. That could mean making larger payments now, but by paying off your loan more quickly you will be saving thousands in interest and you could be mortgage-free by the time you retire.
Expense 2: Taking out loans for your child to go to college
Paying for college these days is expensive, but if you want to retire in 10 years and you’re considering taking out PLUS loans for your child’s college education, you could be making the wrong move, financially speaking. "Often times, these loans have interest rates in the 6-7% range and could saddle you with years of additional debt," said Bera. "Your kids can take out loans for college, but you can’t take out loans for retirement."
When it comes to adult kids, you’ll want to limit how much you help them with their finances, as well. "The best gift you can give your children is securing your own financial future, so that they don’t need to take care of you in retirement," said Bera. "As your wealth increases, you may be able to offer them gifts to help them with expenses later on, or set up 529 Plans for your grandkids, but start today by taking care of yourself."
Expense 3: Whatever your largest expense is
By the time you get to a place in life where you’re considering retirement in the next 10 years, there’s a high probability that your general monthly expenses may have gotten a bit high.
As we get older we tend to buy nicer houses and cars, have kids, and go on fancier vacations. If retirement is really your goal, though, Bera suggests examining your overall expenses and figuring out a way to possibly cut back on your biggest one. After all, expensive homes and fancy cars are nice, sure, but they "could be taking a big bite out of your ability to aggressively save for retirement," said Bera.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for anyone to do if they want to retire in 10 years — or at all! — is to start saving now. "Set up a Roth IRA and max it out," said Bera. "Increase your 401(k) contributions today and cut your biggest expenses first. If you’re feeling house poor, it’s time to take a serious look at selling your home and renting a more affordable apartment or moving to a smaller house."
Planning for retirement in 10 years could also mean coming up with ways to live more simply when it happens. As Tanza Loudenback reported for Business Insider, if you’re aiming to quit work in 10 years, giving attention to a few specific areas — like paying off lingering high-interest debt and educating yourself on healthcare options — can make post-retirement life that much easier.
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