Money moves you need to make before retirement

What you do in the five or ten years before you retire can make a major difference in the quality of your life in retirement. No matter how much you have saved and prepared, you will still need to tick items off your retirement planning checklist. Here are seven last-minute retirement maneuvers that can change everything for the better.

Take advantage of your last chance to improve your retirement portfolio. If you feel for any reason that your retirement portfolio will be inadequate for the retirement you hope to have — or if you would like a little bit extra — now is the time to make it happen. You probably have fewer expenses now, especially if your children are done with college and your mortgage is paid in full, which means you have more money to save. The money that was going to these major expenses can be redirected into retirement savings.

Make sure you arrive at retirement debt-free. Debt payments represent a direct reduction in retirement income . If you have outstanding balances on credit cards, installment loans, car loans and even your mortgage, make it a priority to get them paid off in the next few years. Paying down debt is one of the most cost effective maneuvers you can make at this point.

Look for other ways to trim your living expenses. Take a look at any expenses you have for products or services that you probably won’t need when you retire and start to eliminate them. You can pick just one or two expenses per year, and by the time you retire you’ll have taken a chunk out of your living expenses.

Plan to reduce the risk in your portfolio. Shifting your entire portfolio to interest generating assets isn’t practical with today’s low rates. But you can begin reducing risk by shifting assets into income producing equities, such as high dividend yielding stocks and real estate investment trusts. The dividend returns on REITs are a lot higher than interest on fixed income investments and also a bit higher than the dividends typically being paid on stocks.

Start working on a post-retirement career or business. If you are concerned about outliving your money, and don’t think that paying off debt or reducing living expenses will completely remedy the problem, you should consider developing a post-retirement career or business. That income can also help to insulate you in the event that the stock market takes a dive shortly after you retire, and give your portfolio time to recover from the decline.

Plan to delay your retirement by a year or two. If you can delay your retirement by just a couple of years, you can make a major improvement in your overall retirement outlook. Delaying retirement allows you to contribute more money to your retirement plan, will give you more time for your portfolio to accumulate additional investment earnings and you can delay making withdrawals from your retirement savings. In addition, your Social Security benefits will increase by anywhere between 5 and 8 percent for each year that you delay retirement between ages 62 and 70.

Make getting and staying healthy a lifestyle. Many people begin to develop chronic health-related conditions in their 50s. Not only will these conditions interfere with your ability to enjoy life, but they can also cost you in the form of a reduced ability to earn extra money, and even more directly in the form of higher medical expenses.

If you don’t feel that your retirement is quite where you want it to be, take advantage of the last few years before you retire to make the kinds of maneuvers that can change everything for the better.