7 Key Ages of Retirement Preparation

Age may be just a number, but when it comes to retirement preparation, not all ages are created equal. From contributing to a 401(k), to applying for Social Security, to taking minimum distributions, what follows are some key retirement preparation age-related milestones, and tips to guide your progress.

The Day You Begin Your First Job

Don’t wait 20 years to say, “If I only knew then what I know now.” According to a May 27th, 2016, report in US News, 57 percent of adults under the age of 35 haven’t saved a dime for retirement. But let’s assume you are 25-years old and land a job offer that pays you $60,000, and offers a generous 401(k) employer match of 100 percent up to 3 percent of your pre-tax contributions. At a modest 3 percent compounding interest, for a mere $75 deduction from your bi-monthly paycheck, you’ll have over $300,000 saved by the time you reach 55.

Age 50: The Catch-Up Contribution

Anyone who will turn 50 during the 2016 calendar year can make what is called a “catch-up contribution” to their 401(k) for a maximum of $6,000. This is in addition to the $18,000 of allowable employee contributions, which is unchanged from 2015.

Age 59½: Take Your Money Now, Or Later?

At age 59½, you can begin to withdraw savings without penalty from your retirement accounts. Obviously, the longer you wait the more interest you should accrue.

Seven Key Ages

Age 62: The Social Security Temptation

Age 62 is the first year you can begin to receive Social Security, but the longer you wait, the larger your benefit amount. The benefit difference between applying at age 62 and waiting until age 70 is a whopping 32 percent! If you have good genes (and expect to live a long time) and you aren’t in immediate need of the income, waiting can pay off big time!

Age 65: Healthcare is a MAJOR Retirement Concern

Besides not having enough money, the #1 reason people delay retirement is a lack of access to affordable healthcare. Medicare is complex, with four parts, A, B, C, and D. Speak with a credentialed advisor to get the ins and outs on this federal health insurance program.

Age 66: Now You Have Some Options!

66 years of age is when you are eligible for full Social Security benefits. Again, deciding when to apply depends on numerous factors, including your health, income needs, and marital status, but waiting until age 70 usually means a larger monthly check.

Age 70½: And now? You Have to Make Your Move

You can’t let it grow forever! This is the age at which you must start taking minimum withdrawals from most retirement accounts, including your IRA, SEP IRA, Simple IRA, 401(k), 403(b) and 457, otherwise, you face potentially outrageous tax consequences. How bad? According to the IRS website, a 50 percent penalty will be levied against you if you miss your minimum distribution dates. That means a $4,000 late withdrawal could cost you $2,000.


No matter what age you are, your future quality of life will likely improve if you master certain financial, legal and logistical factors related to retirement. But mastering those factors is not always easy. Just as there are 7 age-related milestones, I have found there are 7 key steps to achieving a dream post-work lifestyle. My latest free guide, Personal Decision Points: 7 Steps to Your Ideal Retirement Transition, details the process pre-retirees should follow to have a comprehensive approach to planning and goal setting for retirement.

Post sponsored by Scott Hanson, a senior partner and founding principal of Hanson McClain. Hanson has worked in the financial industry as a Certified Financial Planner for over 25 years and has a unique perspective on retirement and financial planning. He believes that the traditional notion of retirement is dead and that many Americans don’t enjoy retirement because they don’t have a plan for their senior years (that goes beyond money).

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. There’s a lot of options there James. No wonder people get confused when they have to start making serious financial decisions, especially as they get older. The lesson here, I think, is to educate yourself, financially, early on and have be reasonably clear of what the options are and how you are going to plan your retirement. But I’m guessing that the majority don’t.

    • ” … educate yourself, financially, early on and have be reasonably clear of what the options are and how you are going to plan your retirement.” Indeed. As I was explaining to the friend who joined us on that hike I mentioned a few days ago, accumulation is just one part of financial/retirement planning. Most people know they should be building a nest egg and a fair percentage are at least somewhat engaged in the effort. The problem is that there are still too many not saving/investing, too many not saving/investing in an adequate way, and very few that think/act in any kind of detail (e.g. develop a withdrawal plan that considers the different types of accounts, different tax implications, etc.) beyond that.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing our thoughts, my friend.

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