Updated for the 2023 tax year.
Things that are great about being in your 50s, an incomplete list: Reinventing yourself. Maybe the kids are getting old enough that you can finally breathe again. Peak emotional intelligence. A serious jump in overall happiness, according to some stats. (Betting those last two are related.)
So, between all that living your best life, what should you do with your money today so that those #goals are within reach?
1. Step on the gas in your career
When we surveyed 1,000 women about their money habits and goals*, 61% of women over 50 told us they describe themselves as ambitious. First of all: Heck, yeah! Second of all: If that’s you, go do all the things.
There’s also this: Women’s salaries tend to peak when they’re in their 40s, but men’s salaries don’t peak until they’re in their 50s (so … now). So it’s time to get creative in terms of how you can keep up: Learning new technology? Reverse mentoring? Serving on a board?
Or … maybe doing something entirely new: We asked the women in our survey if they were working on a new goal this year. Of those who said yes, a remarkable 57% of women over 50 said they’re starting a new business.
2. Cut costs where it makes sense
If you have kids and they’re approaching flight, you’ll have some money you used to spend on them — later, extra-curricular activity fees, new clothes, and all those groceries! (Though maybe hello, college and/or help with adulting.) If you’ve got some extra in your budget, invest it toward your retirement (or other awesome money goals) instead.
Also, with fewer people relying on your income to — you know — live, you might be able to drop some of your more expensive life insurance policies.
Or maybe you don’t feel like maintaining that big house anymore, so you can rent or buy a place that fits you better now — and maybe save on mortgage (or rent) payments, property taxes, and maintenance costs.
3. Get more specific about retirement
With retirement potentially only a decade or so away, now’s the time to get real on what you want yours to look like. Start by dreaming up your ideal lifestyle — get really specific. Want to move to a beachside town? Which one? What does the real estate market look like in that town? What’s the cost of living? How will you fill your days? What do those things cost? Price it all out and see what kind of annual income you’ll need to make it happen.
Ellevest’s investing platform can also help you understand how much you might need. We use things like your age, income, earning power, and gender to project how much you’ll be making right before you retire, and then we help you get on track for an expected retirement income equal to 90% of that (including inflation, meaning it’s in retirement-year dollars — which is what you’ll need — not today’s dollars).
That’s higher than the goal other people recommend, but we also believe it’s a smarter, more conservative approach to leave you room for whatever comes your way.
It also gives you room for a good, long life. Women live six to eight years longer than men, on average, so we legitimately need more retirement savings than men. (Right now, we actually retire with two-thirds as much. Cue deep sigh ... and consistent investing to make up the difference.)
So take what you’ve dreamed up, compare it to what Ellevest recommends, and see what needs adjustment from there. Now that you’re in your 50s, you can also take advantage of catch-up contributions in most tax-advantaged retirement accounts, if you need to. That’s an extra $7,500 a year into your 401(k) and an extra $1,000 a year into your IRA.
You’ll also want to make sure your investment portfolio is a) being adjusted so that it’s less risky as you approach retirement and b) balanced appropriately across different asset classes like stocks, bonds, and alternatives. Ellevest does this automatically for the portfolios you invest with us, but if you have investments in different places, it could require a bit more homework — and legwork.
And also: Women over 50 were most likely to tell us that they never talk to anyone about financial advice. When it comes to the ins and outs of taxes, income planning during retirement, and all that good (but complex and highly personalized) stuff, a financial planner can be super helpful. We know some pretty great ones.
4. Look into long-term care insurance
Travel and hobbies in retirement? Fun to think about! Health care logistics? Less fun to think about. But now is the time. Medical insurance doesn’t cover things like nursing homes, in-home care, and assisted living, and so long-term care insurance might be critical to helping you stay independent down the line.
There’s a timing issue with this kind of insurance: You don’t want to buy long-term care insurance before your risk justifies the cost because it can be really expensive. Yet if you wait too long (like until you actually need the long-term care itself), you probably won’t qualify (or else you’ll pay ultra-high premiums). That often makes your 50s the right time to check it out.
That said, you’ll want to make sure it’s right for your financial situation. For example, if you have the investable assets to do so, it might make more sense just to earmark some of your money for your future care. On the other hand, if you qualify, Medicaid might be able to help out.
5. Get serious about estate planning
A lot could have happened in your family in recent years — weddings held, babies born, loved ones passed away. So if you haven’t done so already, make sure everything’s set up so that your money and possessions will be divided up the way you want once you don’t need them anymore. And if you’ve already got everything in place, it’s a good time to check that it’s up to date.
Docs you need might include a will, a medical and financial power of attorney (which names someone to make decisions for you if you’re no longer able to make them on your own), and a living will (which tells doctors what kind of medical care you want if you aren’t able to tell them).
Also, by now you may have a more solid idea of what kind of legacy you want to create. Depending on the size of the inheritance you’re planning to leave your loved ones, certain financial vehicles like trusts can be really useful, whether you’re planning to leave money to loved ones or a charity — or both. There are a lot of tax implications, though, so we recommend discussing this option with a financial planner and an attorney.
So that’s our advice: Go for it in your career, make the most of cost savings, hit that retirement plan hard, consider long-term care insurance, and solidify your legacy. As one does.