From 1945 to 1964, Americans gave birth to seventy-six million children.
These seventy million some-odd children, the Baby Boom generation, are now seventy million adults reaching retirement age, or else getting close enough to retirement age that they're starting to think through financial goals for their golden years.
For Baby Boomers, what financial goals should be most important, especially during these difficult economic times?
Here are five smart financial goals for Baby Boomers.
1. Eliminate Any Debts
Getting out of debt is important for all generations, not just Baby Boomers. However, for Baby Boomers, with retirement either looming or already starting, getting out of debt takes on extra importance.
Once you're out of debt – including paying off the mortgage early – you can really start to enjoy those golden years. You'll have the extra money you need to travel the way you always dreamed of, or spoil your grandkids for years to come. For all ages, debts are a drag on the finances; for people with fixed incomes, debts are especially dangerous.
2. Increase Retirement Savings
For the generation that once said, “Trust no one over thirty,” it's hard to imagine that retirement is just around the corner. Maybe it was the culture of youth that kept you from saving for retirement in your twenties and thirties, or maybe it was just plain ignorance. At any rate, it's never too late to start saving and investing to increase the size of your nest egg. Even if you've reached your early fifties, you still have close to fifteen years of working life to save for your retirement.
Financial author Dave Ramsey suggests that you save at least fifteen percent of your gross income towards your retirement. While a Roth 401k and Roth IRA retirement accounts are good places to start, they may not be enough if you started saving for retirement late in the game. If you did start saving late, talk to a financial advisor about more aggressive investing.
3. Get Healthy
What does getting healthy have to do with your financial decisions? If you've paid a doctor or hospital bill recently, you'll realize that your physical health has everything to do with your financial health.
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Although Baby Boomers might not want to admit it, their body is starting to get older, and that means more health problems are coming. Unless you want to spend that money you set aside for a trip around the world on medical bills, implement a diet and fitness plan now that you can live with. Considering the uncertainty of healthcare in the United States, who knows what will happen to the availability and expenses associated with medical care by the time you reach retirement? Therefore, now's the time to lose the weight, quit the smoking, and cut back on any other indulgences that harm your health. An investment in your local gym, hiking club, or yoga studio could be one of the smartest investments a Boomer can make.
4. Create a Retirement Budget and Educate Yourself
Although it may sound like a no-brainer, a surprising two-thirds of people nearing retirement age haven't yet created a budget for their retirement. Creating a retirement budget, along with a strategy for how you'll draw from your nest egg, is a critical planning step for your upcoming retirement.
Fidelity recently surveyed recent retirees, asking them what they wish they would have done before retirement. When they asked the question, “What advice would you give to a family member or friend who's within a year of their retirement?”, the most common answer was to seek guidance from a professional advisor to help with the transition.
Does your employer offer any resources that might help educate you for your upcoming transition? In Fidelity's survey, 32% of the people who turned to their employer for guidance said they couldn't have made the transition into retirement without the extra help.
5. Start Dreaming Now
If you're a Baby Boomer in your late forties, fifties, or sixties, you owe it to yourself and to your family to stop procrastinating and take these financial steps now. Even if retirement hasn't hit yet, it will come sooner than you think. You want your retirement years to be trouble-free, giving you the freedom to live where you want and how you want, whether that means selling your house and getting an RV to tour the country, or buying that beachfront property or cabin in the mountains.