Because your life and your plans will change, a checkup at least annually will keep your retirement plans on track.
Review your most recent list of retirement needs and plans. Do you still envision the same retirement lifestyle as your original plan? Talk your plans over with your spouse and your family, and revise your estimates as needed. You can talk to a professional financial planner or use retirement calculators online to help you with your projections.
Your income may change from year to year, with raises, promotions, and changes in your job situation. Your projections for your retirement needs may also change, which could alter the amount you should contribute every month or year. Keep your contributions up-to-date by reviewing them at least once a year.
Measure your progress. Pull out your statements from your 401(k), traditional or Roth IRA, or any other retirement accounts to which you make contributions for the year. Total your contributions so far for 2012, starting from January 1, 2012. Hold on to those totals—you will refer to them for both 2012 and 2013 planning.
Know your limits. Make sure that your contributions for the year fall below the set limits of your plan or account. The general 401(k) limit provided by the IRS for employee contributions is $17,000 for 2012. The IRS also permits an additional $5,500 contribution for employees age 50 and over. However, limits for your specific 401(k) plan may differ, so check with your employer.
The general 2012 limits for traditional and Roth IRA accounts combined are $5,000 for those under 50 years of age and $6,000 for contributors age 50 and older. There are additional income requirements for the Roth IRA, and other requirements that you must fulfill to take the tax deduction on traditional IRA contributions. You can find more information by visiting the IRS website or talking to a tax professional about your specific situation.
Contribute more to your 2012 retirement savings. If you have not met the limits above, you can bulk up your retirement account by contributing more savings before the deadlines close for your plan or account.
Contributions to the 401(k) and the traditional IRA can also give you tax benefits for the year if you meet requirements; taxes on these contributions are deferred until they are withdrawn in retirement. Because those savings are not counted as taxable income in 2012, you pay less in taxes for the year.
For your 401(k), you should make any additional contributions by December 31, 2012. If you have a Roth or traditional IRA, you can make 2012 contributions until the year’s tax deadline, which is April 15, 2013.
Plan your contributions for 2013. A financial planner or retirement calculator can help you decide whether to increase or decrease your monthly retirement contribution for 2013, in line with your revised retirement plan. You should also take a look back at your 2012 contributions. Did they fit comfortably in your budget? Did your income change in the past year?
Once you revise the amount, notify your employer or schedule automatic transfers to your IRA from your checking account starting in 2013.
A financial adviser can help you review your retirement investments and make changes to rebalance your portfolio. If you review investments on your own, consider the amount of time you have left before retirement and your tolerance for risk as you choose between growth, income, and balanced investments.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org