A Retirement Planning To-Do List for Every Career Stage

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Retirement is something you should plan for from your first days on your first job through the rest of your working years. Use the information below as a handy guide to your most important retirement planning tasks at each stage of your career.

Starting out

  • Start saving for retirement. Make a habit of it. Use payroll deductions to save automatically through your workplace retirement savings plan. (For Pension Boards members, you can make tax-free contributions through an Employee Retirement Contribution Account. Learn more here.] If your plan offers matching contributions, try to save at least enough to get the full amount of the match.
  • Increase your contributions to retirement savings by at least 1% of pay each year. Also, consider increasing your contributions every time you get a pay raise.
  • Become an investor. Always invest your savings based on the number of years before you plan to retire, the investment return you would like to achieve, and your tolerance for risk. Revisit your asset allocation (investment mix) at least once a year or whenever you have a major life event, like getting married or divorced or adding a child to your family. [Pension Boards members can also invest in Target Annuitization Date (TAD) Funds which invest more aggressively when you are years away from retirement, and more conservatively as you approach retirement. Watch this video to learn more.]


  • Max-out your retirement savings contributions. At this point, you are probably in your peak earning years. So, try to save as much as you can in your workplace savings plan and possibly an IRA.
  • If you switch jobs, keep your workplace savings plan money invested in a tax-deferred account. If the employer you are leaving allows it, you can keep the money invested in that employer’s plan. Or, you can roll the money over to an account with your new employer or an IRA. [Learn about the Pension Boards’ Rollover Contribution Account for non-annuitized members here.]
  • Keep tabs on your asset allocation. Continue to review your investment mix annually or whenever you have a big life event.


  • Revisit your goals. Do you now plan to retire either earlier or later than you originally intended? How do you think you will spend your time after you retire? Where will you live, and will you have either rent or mortgage payments? If any of your retirement goals have changed, you may have to change your savings and investment strategy accordingly.
  • If your nest egg’s coming up short, consider making “catch-up” contributions. At age 50, federal law allows you to start contributing higher amounts to your workplace savings plan and IRA. In 2020, you can contribute an extra $6,500 on top of the regular $19,500 limit that applies to a workplace plan. You can also contribute an additional $1,000 on top of the regular $6,000 limit that applies to an IRA.
  • Adjust your portfolio for a shorter time horizon to retirement. To reduce risk, you may wish to move some of your assets into more conservative investments. But remember that your nest egg will have to last the rest of your life — and to stay ahead of inflation, you will generally need to be invested for some long-term growth as well as income.
  • Review your savings and investment strategy from a tax standpoint. Find out whether it makes sense to make Roth contributions to your workplace savings plan (if your plan allows this) or to contribute to a Roth IRA. Either option will generally provide you with tax-free income in retirement.
  • Start planning your retirement income. If your workplace plan offers a choice on how to receive your plan balance at retirement, get to know your options. Also, get projections for your Social Security retirement benefit and any pension benefits you expect to receive. You want to create a strategy for turning your nest egg into income you will not outlive.

For professional and unbiased one-on-one guidance on retirement planning, call an Ernst & Young LLP (EY) financial planner. EY Financial Planning Services® is a Pension Boards benefit offered at no cost to actively-contributing members of the Annuity Plan, as well as to retired members with annuitized accounts. Call the EY Navigate Financial Planner Line at 1.877.927.1047 or visit pbucc.eynavigate.com to learn more.

This article is used with the permission of Ernst & Young LLP.