Saving for retirement can feel like an overwhelming task. How much do you need to save? How much can you really afford to put away and still live the life you deserve today? How does anyone make it work?

These are questions we’re entirely too familiar with, and we want to help you feel empowered—not intimidated—to save for your future. That all happens with solid, comprehensive financial planning.

With that in mind, here are three tips on how you can use comprehensive financial planning to help maximize your retirement savings while still allowing you to enjoy the moment.

1. Use the Investment Vehicle That Works for You

While many workers take advantage of investment options like 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs, it’s important to be aware that there are more options out there—and not all of us are using the options that work best for us.

For example, if your company has the option of contributing to a Roth 401(k), that can be a huge benefit if you are early in your career. You pay the tax now, at an assumed lower bracket than the one you’ll be in when you retire, and you may be able to take withdrawals from the account tax-free.

On the other hand, if you’re someone at the height of your career and are using this type of account, you’re likely missing out on a lot of tax savings. If you were to start contributing to a Traditional 401(k) instead, you’d defer the taxes until you withdraw the income, at which time it’s more likely you’ll be in a lower tax bracket.

2. Consider Your Social Security Strategies

When to start claiming Social Security benefits is perhaps the most complicated retirement decision you’ll make, but doing it right can mean you end up with thousands more over your lifetime.

The full benefit amount is based on applying for benefits at full retirement age (FRA), which is 66 or 67—depending on when you were born. For every year you wait to apply after you reach FRA (up until age 70), you get an increase above that full benefit. But you can also apply for Social Security before you reach FRA (as early as age 62). However, doing so means you’ll receive a permanently reduced benefit.

Social Security should be considered just one piece of your overall retirement savings puzzle. But keep in mind that once you apply for benefits, the amount you receive is set in stone, so it’s important to take that into consideration. General wisdom suggests you should hold off as long as possible to receive benefits, but your specific situation might mean you rely on that money sooner. Knowing what your benefit will be—and how important it is for your retirement income—will dictate when you decide to apply.

3. Utilize Roth Conversions

Another way to save smarter in retirement is to move your existing savings around to make the most of your current and future tax brackets. We touched on Roth accounts a little earlier, but you can also complete a Roth conversion. This is a financial move that allows you to pay the tax on all or a portion of your Traditional IRA and move it to a Roth IRA account where the funds can continue to grow. Then, once you reach age 59 ½ and have owned the account for at least five years, you are eligible to take withdrawals from that account tax-free.

However, converting to a Roth IRA can be a complicated decision and may not be appropriate for everyone. Depending on your current tax bracket and the amount you’re transferring, you could end up with a pretty hefty tax bill. And having to pay those taxes could have a ripple effect on your other accounts and finances.

Moving Forward

This is hardly an exhaustive list, so it’s important to be aware that there are other things you can do to make the most out of both your current and future situations. The financial moves you make will be dictated by your specific situation.

It’s also important to note that these investment vehicles have limitations and restrictions you should consider. Working with a financial or tax advisor can help you decide if any of these strategies may help you be more efficient as you save for retirement.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Traditional IRA account owners have considerations to make before performing a Roth IRA conversion. The primarily include income tax consequences on the converted amount in the year of the conversion, withdrawal limitations from a Roth IRA, and income limitations for future contributions to a Roth IRA. In addition, if you are required to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) in the year you convert, you must do so before converting to a Roth IRA.

Stephen P. O'Hara

Stephen P. O'Hara

Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor

CFP®; Series 2, 6, 7, 22 & 63 Securities Registrations,* Series 65 Advisory Registration†, Insurance License Steve brings a wide-ranging perspective of financial services to his 32 years of providing thoughtful financial counsel to his clients, comprised of high net-worth individuals and families, closely-held business owners, professionals and retirees. After 25 years as a planner, he founded CLA Financial Advisors in 2011. CLA Financial Advisors merged with Wealth...Read More