15 Tips for Managing Your 401(k) in Your 50s and Beyond

Discover the power moves that can supercharge your 401(k) in the pivotal years after 50.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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As you gracefully step into the doorstep of your 50s, your 401(k) takes center stage in crafting a secure retirement plan. 

These pivotal years allow you to fine-tune your investment strategy, amplify contributions, and meticulously prepare for life beyond the nine-to-five grind.

In this guide, we delve into 15 tips tailored specifically for individuals navigating their 401(k)s in their 50s and beyond. These insights are designed to optimize your retirement planning moves and create a solid financial foundation.

Eliminate your late tax debt

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Take advantage of your peak earning years

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Embrace the financial zenith of your career during your 50s. These years often mark the pinnacle of earning potential.

Seize this moment by directing a substantial portion of your income into your 401(k), even more than you need, if possible, to lay the groundwork for a retirement that resonates with financial security. You may even be able to choose your retirement age.

Increase your contribution percentage

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Embarking on your 50s signifies the opportune time to elevate your contribution percentage. Starting in 2024, people 50 and older can contribute up to $30,500 a year to a 401(k).

Capitalize on the newfound capacity to contribute more to your 401(k), leveraging the enhanced catch-up contribution limits. 

Even a modest increase in your weekly or monthly contribution can significantly fortify your retirement nest egg, promising a future of financial stability.

Rebalance and review your portfolio once per quarter

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In the evolving landscape of your life, an annual recalibration of your investment portfolio becomes imperative. As retirement looms, your risk tolerance undergoes a metamorphosis.

Ensuring your investments align harmoniously with this transformation becomes crucial. So, be sure to optimize your portfolio for a healthy balance between growth and stability.

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Take advantage of employer matching

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Be sure to take full advantage of employer matching by contributing enough to unlock its full potential. For example, if your employer offers a dollar-for-dollar 4% match against your 401(k) contributions, try contributing at least 4% to receive the full match.

Employer matching is synonymous with free money, so don’t miss out. This is the closest thing to a “free lunch” you’ll find in finance.

Get a second opinion from a financial professional

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Embark on a journey with a seasoned financial professional to navigate the intricacies of retirement decisions. Their knowledge is power, guiding you in making the best choices about your 401(k) and framing a comprehensive retirement strategy.

Help from an experienced financial advisor ensures your financial blueprint aligns seamlessly with your unique aspirations and circumstances.

Maximize catch-up contributions

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Embrace the catch-up contribution limits tailored for individuals reaching the end of their careers. According to the IRS, 401(k) catch-up contribution limits are currently $7,500 for those aged 50 and above. 

As discussed earlier, this will allow you to contribute up to $30,500 in 2024 if you’re at least 50 years old.

Your 50s are the time to beef up your 401(k), so you’re thriving (financially, that is) when you call it quits at work. Seizing this opportunity accelerates your journey toward financial readiness for retirement.

Delay retirement

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Consider the strategic maneuver of postponing your retirement for a few years. While counterintuitive to the allure of leisure, this tactical delay provides a dual advantage. 

It facilitates additional contributions while curbing the years your retirement savings must sustain you, amplifying your financial preparedness for retirement.

Diversify your investments

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Diversification is key for risk management when managing your 401(k). As you navigate the complex investment landscape, dispersing your investments across various asset classes becomes imperative.

This strategic dance helps safeguard your portfolio from sometimes unpredictable market volatility. Diversifying your investment strategy becomes even more critical the closer you get to retirement.

Evaluate your asset allocation regularly

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Conduct periodic audits to discern how your assets are allocated. It’s important to regularly review and adjust your asset allocation based on your risk tolerance and retirement timeline. 

As you approach retirement, shifting toward a more conservative allocation helps protect your gains and minimize exposure to market fluctuations.

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Plan for health care costs

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Don’t forget about health care costs. As you age, health care expenses tend to rise. Understanding Medicare options, considering long-term care insurance, and budgeting for potential medical costs ensure a comprehensive approach to retirement.

You don’t want to find yourself stuck with medical bills you can’t afford because you didn’t plan your finances accordingly.

Evaluate Social Security strategies

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Explore various Social Security claiming strategies to maximize benefits. Delaying Social Security can result in higher monthly payments, providing additional income during retirement.

Consulting with a financial advisor regarding when to claim your Social Security benefits is important. Your golden years should be filled with relaxation and enjoyment, not financial worry.

Create a withdrawal plan

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Crafting a robust withdrawal strategy is key to making your retirement savings last. Delve into a comprehensive plan that meticulously considers fluctuating market conditions, the ever-present threat of inflation, and your anticipated lifespan.

Balancing these factors will pave the way for sustainable and enduring financial stability throughout your retirement journey.

Consider Roth conversions

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Delve into a thorough evaluation of the multifaceted advantages of Roth conversions, particularly if you foresee ascending into a higher tax bracket during retirement.

The strategic conversion of segments of your traditional 401(k) into a Roth IRA extends an invaluable opportunity for tax diversification, potentially serving as a prudent measure to curtail future tax liabilities and optimize your financial landscape for the retirement years.

Review beneficiary designations

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The need to manage your 401(k) extends beyond your 50s. Life changes, with significant events like marriages or the arrival of new family members potentially reshaping your asset distribution preferences.

Reviewing your beneficiary designations helps your hard-earned assets find their way to the intended individuals.

Assess your debt situation

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Make a plan to crush your debt before retiring to give yourself greater financial flexibility. Prioritize paying off outstanding loans and credit card balances to enter retirement with a stronger financial foundation.

Also, be sure to pay off your student loans before you retire. Carrying too much debt into retirement eats away at your funds, which can put you in a bad situation.

Bottom line

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Successfully navigating retirement requires smart management, strategic allocation of assets, ongoing optimization, and making the most of your contributions.

If you're wondering if you’re managing your 401(k) properly, consider these 15 tips before you retire to set yourself on the right track toward an exciting and secure retirement.

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Adam Palasciano

Adam Palasciano is a personal finance-obsessed and money-savvy individual who loves to hash out content on all things saving money. He specializes in writing millennial-friendly personal finance content, covering topics ranging from trending financial news, debt, credit cards, cryptocurrency, and more.