Retiring? Here’s How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

Nick Defenthaler Contributed by: Nick Defenthaler, CFP®

Retiring? Here's How to Maximize Your Last Year of Work

So you’ve decided to hang ‘em up – congratulations! Retirement is an extremely personal decision made for a multitude of reasons.

Some of our clients have been able to afford to retire for several years and have reached a point where the weekly grind isn’t as enjoyable as it once was. Probably dozens of thoughts are running through your head. What will life look like without work? How will I spend my days? Where do I/we want to travel? Do I want to work part-time or volunteer?

With so many emotions and thoughts churning, you might easily miss potentially good opportunities to really maximize your final year of full-time work. In this blog, I’ll touch on planning concepts you should consider to get the most “bang for your buck” as you close out your full-time career:

Maximizing Employer Retirement Plans (401k, 403b, etc.)

If you aren’t already doing so, consider maximizing your company retirement plan. If you are retiring mid-year, if appropriate, adjust your payroll deduction to make sure you are contributing the maximum ($25,000 for those over the age of 50 in 2019) by the time you retire. If monthly cash flow won’t allow for it, consider using money in a checking/savings or taxable account to supplement your cash flow so you can max out the plan. Making pre-tax contributions to your company retirement plan is something you should consider.  

“Front-Load” Charitable Contributions

If you are charitably inclined and plan to make charitable gifts even into retirement, you might consider “front-loading” your donations. Think of it this way: If you are currently in the 24% tax bracket, and you will drop into the 12% bracket once retired, when will making a donation give you the most tax savings? The year you are in the higher bracket, of course! So if you donate $5,000/year to charity, consider making a $25,000 contribution (ideally with appreciated securities and possibly utilizing a Donor Advised Fund) while you are in the 24% bracket.

This strategy has become even more impactful given recent tax law reform and the increase in the standard deduction. (Click here to read more.) This would satisfy five years’ worth of donations and save you more on your taxes. As I always tell clients, the more money you can save on your tax bill by being efficient with your gifts, the less money in the IRS’s pocket and more for the organizations you care about!

Health Care

This is typically a retiree's largest expense. How will you and your family go about obtaining medical coverage upon retirement? Will you continue to receive benefits on your employer plan? Will you use COBRA insurance? Will you be age 65 soon and enroll in Medicare? Are you retiring young and need to obtain an individual plan until Medicare kicks in?

No matter what your game plan, make sure you talk to the experts and have a firm grip on the cost and steps you need to take so that you don’t lose coverage and your insurance is as affordable as possible. We have trusted resources to help guide clients with their health care options.  

Those are just a few of many things you should be thinking about prior to retirement. With so many moving parts, it really makes sense to have someone in your corner to help you navigate through these difficult, and often confusing, topics and decisions. Ideally, seek out the help of a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP®) to give you the comprehensive guidance you need and deserve!

Nick Defenthaler, CFP®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® He contributed to a PBS documentary on the importance of saving for retirement and has been a trusted source for national media outlets, including CNBC, MSN Money, Financial Planning Magazine, and

Opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Generally, if you take a distribution from a 401k prior to age 59 ½, you may be subject to ordinary income tax and a 10% penalty on the amount that you withdraw, in addition to any relevant state income tax. Contributions to a Donor Advised Fund are irrevocable. Changes in tax laws or regulations may occur at any time and could substantially impact your situation. Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and investors may incur a profit or a loss regardless of strategy selected. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.

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