Whether you've just entered the workforce or are finishing out your career, planning for retirement should always be a priority.

Research shows that many Americans are drastically behind in retirement savings. In fact, one-third of Americans don't have any money set aside for retirement, and another 23 percent have less than $10,000 saved.[1]

You can always plan for retirement no matter what stage of life you're in. Here are some tips for each career stage:

 

Stage 1: Your First Job

For those just starting out in the workforce, it’s important to make retirement a priority right from the beginning.

It might sound odd to plan for the end of your career when you literally just started it, but it's wise to start early.

If you're mentally prepared to and have started to invest for retirement from day one, that mindset and behavior will come in handy later when the demands of family life or other priorities tempt you to skimp on investing for retirement in favor of other expenses.

At this stage:

  • Contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, like a 401(k) plan, if available.
  • Capitalize on a 401(k) employer matching program, if offered. It’s free money, so contribute as much as the company will match. Note: It’s worth checking to see if your employer match is subject to a vesting period. That’s important to know before you change jobs and move to another company.
  • Start creating a plan to manage and pay down your debt. You’ll want to consider prioritizing debt with higher interest rates. This will you allow you to free up additional money that can potentially be invested towards your retirement.

 

Stage 2: Prime Career Years

You’ve worked hard to develop your skills and now you may be on the cusp of your prime income earning years. These years are a great time to revisit your 401(k) plan contributions and explore options for any 401(k) plans that are held with previous employers. You may face competing financial priorities and acquire other types of debt beyond student loans. Your retirement years are getting closer, so it’s important to think about your plan while keeping in mind that money management becomes more strategic as you get older.

At this stage:

  • Find a financial advisor and create a financial plan that you review at least annually.
  • Consider rebalancing your portfolio from time to time to keep it aligned with your goals, tolerance for risk, and timeline.
  • Focus on goal-setting, and keep your retirement a top priority. You can take out a loan to pay for things like your children’s education but the same can’t be said for your retirement.
  • Continue to pay down debt and find ways to save (including an emergency fund)
  • Think about opening additional accounts like an individual retirement account (IRA) to help increase your retirement assets.

 

Stage 3: Nearing Retirement

You've successfully climbed the ladder and see a lot of bright new faces entering the office. At this point you’re five to ten years out from retirement.

Start thinking about what retirement looks like and how much money you will need to live and enjoy life. Will you downsize your home? Will you select a senior living community? Do you want to travel or invest in a hobby?

You should also consider maximizing your retirement contributions. If you’re age 50 or older, take advantage of catch-up contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan or IRA.

At this stage:

  • Ramp up your retirement savings
  • Meet with your financial advisor to determine how much your retirement will cost, review your income sources, identify any gaps and develop a retirement income strategy.
  • Research social security: know what you’ll get each month and when to start collecting. There are benefits if you delay claiming Social Security.
  • Decide whether or not you want to or need to work a little longer to have a comfortable retirement.

 

Stage 4: Retirement

With plans for a retirement party in the works, your days in the workforce are numbered. Although you may be excited to begin this new chapter, understand that retirement takes some getting used to, including the transition from accumulating to enjoying your hard-earned assets.

Make wise financial decisions, and assess your financial state often to confirm the cushion you've built won't run out.

At this stage:

  • Enjoy your retirement. You’ve earned it.
  • Try to stick to your monthly budget and be prepared for unexpected expenses.
  • Determine which assets you should access first from a tax perspective based on your overall withdrawal strategy. Your financial advisor can help with this.
  • At age 70-½ begin taking Required Minimum Distributions from your retirement accounts, if applicable. The penalty for not taking your distribution is steep.
  • Consider estate planning.

At each career stage, you can make financial decisions that may positively affect your retirement. If you need help planning, visit pnc.com for more resources.