12 Retirement Planning Rules for People in Their 40s

40th birthday cake

Once you’re in your 40s, it’s time to get serious about saving for retirement. | Aaron Davidson/Getty Images for Haute Living

Your 40s might be the most important decade when it comes to preparing for retirement. For one, you’ve likely hit your peak earning years, with several studies showing pay tends to level off for most people around age 40. If you’ve been waiting for a big income bump to start saving, you might be out of luck.

Also, once people reach their 40s, they’ve probably checked off some other big items on their financial to-do list, such as paying off student loans and buying their first home. That means they should be free to devote both their attention and financial resources to preparing for what happens after they stop working. And with roughly another 20 to 25 years before they say goodbye to the office, people in their 40s still have time to accumulate a significant chunk of money for retirement.

But many 40-somethings aren’t sure whether they’re making the right retirement-planning moves. You might be wondering whether you’re saving enough, are investing too cautiously (or too aggressively), or whether you still have enough time to hit your savings goals. Whether you’ve been contributing to your 401(k) for years or are just getting started, here are 12 retirement planning rules 40-somethings should keep in mind.

1. Take stock of your situation

“The first thing people need to do is take stock of where they are,” Chris Cooper, a certified financial planner based in San Diego, told The Cheat Sheet. That means having a good handle on your income, expenses, and liabilities. Once you have that information in hand, you can start making smart decisions about how much you can save and invest for your future.

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