How to Invest for Retirement When You're 40

By: D. Laverne O'Neal

Building your nest egg after 40 takes discipline.

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Investing for retirement at age 40 is different from investing in your 20s and 30s. Since there are fewer years until retirement -- say, 25 as opposed to 45 -- you must lower the degree of risk, focusing less on emerging markets and start-up companies and more on blue-chip stocks, bonds and other more conservative securities. Putting thought into estate planning and retirement-age taxation is also a good idea, even if you need to recruit professional help.

Step 1

Put the maximum into your 401(k). The yearly limit as of 2013 is $17,500, and when you reach 50, you'll be entitled to make an additional catch-up contribution ($5,500 per year as of 2012). If your employer matches your contributions, even to a limit of 25 percent, you'll get free money for retirement savings.

Step 2

Max out your IRA. The limit as of 2013 is $5,500 per year. You may not be able to deduct your contributions if you participate in a plan at work. In addition, you may not be able to open a Roth if your income is too high. However, you can always open a traditional IRA and roll it into a Roth later.

Step 3

Invest outside of retirement plans. Stocks, bonds and mutual funds are all appropriate choices, but beware: Outside of a retirement plan, cashing out securities can result in greater tax liability. Consulting a tax or financial professional can help you identify and sort out financial issues and develop a solid investment plan for your future.

Step 4

Reallocate existing holdings. In addition to reducing the proportion of high-risk securities, you might want to shift the ratio of stocks to bonds, choosing at most an 80-20, or even a 60-40 stock-to-bond mix. The idea is to begin to focus more on maintenance than extraordinary growth.


  • Traditional IRA earnings are tax deferred, while Roth earnings are withdrawn tax free at retirement.

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About the Author

D. Laverne O'Neal, an Ivy League graduate, published her first article in 1997. A former theater, dance and music critic for such publications as the "Oakland Tribune" and Gannett Newspapers, she started her Web-writing career during the dot-com heyday. O'Neal also translates and edits French and Spanish. Her strongest interests are the performing arts, design, food, health, personal finance and personal growth.

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