Fixed Income Strategies

Toast 2019 with these 6 retirement New Year's resolutions

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Saving more for retirement is a common New Year's resolution. This year, the pledge comes in at the number five resolution in Principal Financial Group's annual survey of 1,008 American consumers wishes for next year, with 21 percent of respondents stating a desire to sock away more for their golden years.

"The new year is a chance for new opportunities and a clean slate," said Jerry Patterson, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions at Principal, in a statement. "The challenge will be taking those good intentions and making them last into February and beyond."

Many financial experts advise upping your retirement savings rates past your company match (typically somewhere around 5 percent of salary) to double-digits, to 15 percent of pay or more. The more you save, the earlier, the greater your account balance come retirement, thanks to the power of compound interest. Beyond simply saving more, here's a look, in broad strokes, at several other — out of a legion of possible — retirement-related resolutions you might consider making for 2019.

1. Gaze into your cash crystal ball

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Try to paint a picture as best you can of what your ideal retirement will look like — and how much it will cost you. An online retirement savings calculator such as the one AARP offers can help you gauge whether you are on the right spending and savings track.

2. Get a health checkup

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Take the pulse of your retirement health-care plans. Are you still working? If that's the case, make sure you're taking advantage of a health savings account if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan. An HSA not only helps with medical expenses; it can also be a good retirement-savings choice. If you're already retired and on Medicare, be sure you're making the most of your coverage options. For example, if your medication needs have changed or are evolving, shop around to see if your Part D prescription plan is still the best fit. Looking further ahead, weigh the alternatives for long-term care should the need arise; long-term care insurance might be worth considering, depending on your financial situation.

3. Keep your estate plan up to date

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Be sure to check that all your estate documents — such as last wills and testaments, trusts, medical directives and powers of attorney — comply with the laws of the state where you're retiring. Go over the provisions of those documents to ensure they're still relevant. Take steps to address any possible estate-tax concerns. Make certain the beneficiary information on all accounts is up to date; no matter what's specified in your will, beneficiaries listed on specific accounts, such as IRAs, will inherit those funds. Also, now's a good time to think about the societal legacy you may want to leave through charitable gifts.

4. Give back now

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Financial donations after you die will be welcome, but what about considering donating your time and energy while in retirement? Now that you'll likely have more time on your hands, consider picking a cause or two and lending a hand. Schools, hospitals, libraries and many nonprofit organizations are often actively looking for hands-on help.

5. Fine-tune your portfolio

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You may have your money mainly in a target date fund, or with a money manager, that keeps your investment mix of stocks, bonds, cash and other assets appropriate for your retirement time horizon or not but, either way, it's a good idea to ensure your asset allocation is still where you want it. Remember, portfolio growth and market shifts can alter your allocation when you're not looking. And, the nearer you get to actual retirement — or if you're already there — the more conservative an allocation you'll want to have. Also, keep track of the various fees you're paying in various funds and consider lower-cost alternatives.

6. Pick a planner

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If you are not already working with a money expert such as a certified financial planner or other financial advisor, consider such a partnership for the new year. A CFP is trained to help you analyze your financial reality and goals, devise a plan to manage your retirement savings, and keep a lid on the emotions that can often derail even the most level-headed investor — especially during periods of market volatility like we've seen in December. The Financial Planning Association's site and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards' site are good resources to start with.