The younger you are, the less you’re likely able — or willing — to think about what your retirement might be like. That’s OK, but you probably do know one thing, even if you’re a millennial with years and years to save toward your future: you want to have enough money to support your lifestyle for as long as you live.
In my previous position, I worked almost exclusively with clients who were 65 or older, so I saw a range of outcomes from decisions they’d made earlier in life — some positive, and some not so much. My focus today is informing younger people based on that experience, to help them end up where they want to be many years from now.
Fast-forward 30 years, when you’ve had it with your corporate job and want to slow down, living comfortably by replacing your work paycheck with a paycheck from yourself — a savings paycheck, so to speak. When you see what you’ve saved, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise if you realize everything is in your 401(k), your retirement account — thus it’s all taxable as you take it out.
What that means is you may have less available to support yourself than you thought. For instance, if you want to “pay yourself” $50,000 a year, after taxes that may end up being only $40,000. While taxes can’t be avoided, that’s a less than ideal situation.
The solution is to diversify where you save to include not just a 401(k), but also a brokerage account and a Roth account, if possible. One possible scenario is to split your current savings into three buckets — 50-30-20: 50 percent in a tax-deferred account, 30 percent in a taxable (brokerage) account, and 20 percent in a Roth IRA. By spreading out your tax liability, you’ll end up with more options and more flexibility when you retire, which equals more freedom to enjoy life as you see fit.
Of course, we have no idea where taxes will be in the future, and each situation is unique. The point I want to highlight is that you maximize your options when saving into all three buckets.
Let’s say your target savings level is $1,000 per month. If that entire amount is going into your 401(k), you might pat yourself on the back that you aren’t taxed on that money now — but the taxman will cometh when you want to withdraw it. A better strategy would be to save $500 in your 401(k), $300 in a brokerage account and $200 in a Roth IRA; you’ll pay a bit more in taxes now, but you’ll reap the benefits of less taxation when your only source of income is your savings.
It’s actually easier for entrepreneurs to achieve an ideal level of savings diversification than it is for those who have corporate jobs. If you work for yourself, you’ll set up your savings vehicles; if you work for a corporation, your savings may all be going into a retirement account — unless you’re proactive and take steps to diversify.
The end may be a long way away — but the steps you take today will go a long way toward ensuring you’re able to enjoy the retirement you desire.
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