A couple using a laptop togetherYou're in your 50s. Retirement is now a visible light at the end of the tunnel. You've worked hard and saved hard. But that might not be enough.

Nearly half of Americans in their 50s are at risk of experiencing a decline in their standard of living after they retire. To help ensure you're on the positive side of that statistic, implement these three retirement strategies before you hit the big 6-0.

1. Play catch Up

Wrinkles and gray hair are among the downsides of advancing age. But one benefit of getting older is being allowed to save more into your tax-advantaged accounts for retirement.

After your 50th birthday, you can make catch-up contributions to those retirement accounts: On top of the already-generous annual contribution limits ($17,500 for 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans and $5,500 for IRAs for 2013) you can add an extra $6,500 every single year -- between these accounts -- until you retire.

2. Start moving money into a cash position

With a few years left until retirement, be sure to revisit your asset allocation. Now is the time to start moving a portion of your balances into conservative investments. That way, when you need the money five years down the road, you can be confident it'll be there for you.

Some of the best parking spots for your cash include money market accounts or CDs. Money market accounts are highly liquid and FDIC-insured.
CDs currently pay close to 1 percent. A ladder of CDs may give you slightly higher returns while allowing you to take advantage of any interest rate increases. Bankrate.com can point you to some viable options.

Of course, be sure to keep a healthy chunk of your retirement account balances in the stock market. After all, those are the investments that'll allow you to buy gas and groceries in 20 years -- when goodness knows what it'll cost to fill up your tank and fridge!

3. Carefully craft your long-term care plan

People are living longer, healthier lives. But in the end, that means we more likely to last long enough to get worn out and need help with basic activities of daily living like bathing and dressing. And we might need that help for quite awhile. In the best of circumstances, Medicare only picks up a very small sliver of these costs, leaving you to foot the hefty bill and drain your retirement nest egg.

Long-term care is likely the most overlooked piece of one's retirement plan. Yet what's the point of amassing a huge pile of money for retirement if it'll all be wiped out by a prolonged long-term care event?

Alleviate the personal financial toll by buying a private long-term care insurance policy. (Check out the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance websites for tips and resources.) Keep in mind that premiums skyrocket after age 60. So if you're planning to buy this insurance (and qualify for doing so), now is the time to obtain your policy.

When shopping for individual policies, keep in mind that they can be very different from one insurance company to the next. Since each company may also offer policies with different combinations of benefits, be sure you're comparing apples to apples. You can compare plans and obtain quotes at LTC Tree. Also, make sure your insurance company is reputable and stable, so it'll be there when you need it.

If you don't qualify or aren't interested in securing a policy, then figure out how you'll fund and administer your personal long-term care plan. For example, which assets will you spend down to pay for your care? Will you rely on family and friends for care? If so, have you notified them of their responsibilities?

In the Blink of an Eye

You're in the homestretch of your race toward retirement -- but you're not there yet. You still have a few years to fine-tune your plan. By catching up your retirement contributions, moving money into a cash position, and crafting your long-term care plan now, you can increase your odds of making your golden years everything you hoped they would be.

Motley Fool contributor Nicole Seghetti writes about personal finance, retirement, and investing. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleSeghetti.

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12 Comments

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w_diago

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December 02 2013 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mk4199

I'm 55 and had to resign from job due to a disability. Unsure if I can continue to receive benefits and know the chance of revenue replacement from my previous employer is unlikely. Everyone talks about extending retirement until 70 to gain a fixed 8% gain each year (which may never happen). SS will be insolvent in 25 years so our government is doing everything they can to extend the life of a program that should have been fixed years ago.

September 04 2013 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Young

They forgot to add the one that says not to lose your high paying job when you are 50.

September 04 2013 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matt McCann

Aging does require a plan. Long Term Care insurance is a very affordable way to plan for the physical, emotional and financial burdens that aging places on us, Long Term Extended Health Care.

We require care due to health, accident and the impact of aging. Planning when you are in your 40’s and 50’s when you are healthy and premiums are very affordable seems to make sense for many Americans who have assets to protect and understand that this risk will have a huge negative impact on their future retirement, not to mention the emotional impact on the family.

Consumers should only work with a specialist who represents a number of the top insurance companies, understands policy design, claims and underwriting.

There are a number of outstanding online resources to learn more about this issue: www.completelongtermcare.com and www.infoltc.org.

September 04 2013 at 2:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Matt McCann's comment
Linda Maxwell

I have been through a personal experience and understand having a plan for long term care ... and doing it younger as part of a retirement plan. I found it very affordable and did lots of research ... I went to the www.completelongtermcare.com site, I went to www.aaltci.org as well and found them very good.

September 04 2013 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

My brother-in law started taking SS at 67 and had time to cash 1 check before he died. Timing is all about your own personal situation.

September 04 2013 at 10:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John's comment
Robert Young

SS is a Ponzi scheme. They rely on people like your brother to maintain its solvency.

September 04 2013 at 8:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mikebw1

One of the best options is to have everything you own paid off "BEFORE" retiring. Have your house re-roofed, re-place most of the outer wood, have it freshly freshly painted with high quality paint, new long lasting carpet, new appliances, and a new car, but most importantly pay for it all by "CASH" and yes that is easier said than done, but do it anyhow. I am 59 and will have paid off everything by 62. That will allow me several years to do all I've listed above. Remember, a huge part of the cost of living is finance rates. Get rid of them and you'd be surprised how much cash you have left over. Buy as much as you can in the way of items that do not perish. Remember, everything goes up in price.

September 04 2013 at 10:05 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
burkenc

To even mention CD's or moneymarket funds here is ridiculous. Time is far better spent researching quality mutual funds with reasonable beta's and a respectable income component.

Moving anymore than a token allocation into conservative investments in the 55-65 range is shortsighted. Keep a cash component for emergencies and buying opportunities.

If one is overly-conservative and fails to research and stay informed on investment options, results are more likely to fall short of needs and/or wants. After all, risk/reward correlation does have a degree of credibility, so a flight-to-safety MO may allow a better night's sleep, but may cause headaches down the road.

A good #4; Do your homework.

September 04 2013 at 9:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Lyle Shilling

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September 04 2013 at 7:07 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
ehege

Ref para 1: to clarify the increased contribution limits beyond age 50 for all IRAs combined is $6500, and for 401Ks/403Bs etc combined it is $23,000.
Beyond the recommendations given, I personally recommend that if you\'re able, continue to work (even if part-time) beyond the traditional retirement age of 62-65 closer to age 69 or 70 and postpone taking your own social security benefit until sometime between age 69-70. Each year that you delay taking your social security benefit beyond your full social security age, the benefit increases 8^/year until you reach age 70.

September 03 2013 at 2:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ehege's comment
j79xjames

When to take Social Security is not that clear. It depends on various factors including marital status and your health situation. As indicated in a post on the retirement site Retirement And Good Living it takes many years for someone who starts taking Social Security at 66 or 70 to catch up in payments to someone who beings at 62. That sites also offers many other posts and pages on various financial and non-financial topics related to retirement.

September 03 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to j79xjames's comment
vlady1000

Yep even though I should not need it and my family has a history of living very long, I am still taking it at 62. I can do better with it and you never know how the rules may change, especially with all the problems the gov has created..........or I may get hit by a bus.

September 03 2013 at 10:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down