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If you’re like many Americans who are counting down the days until retirement, it’s likely that you’ve already been saving and we commend you for doing so. But are you confident that you have enough put away? And could you be saving smarter to make the most of your money now and in retirement?

Everyone knows how important it is to save and invest for retirement, but knowing how to save for retirement is just as important. We’ve put together a list of items that help you save smarter, not harder, no matter how long your retirement countdown may be.

Make Your Money Work for You

This one seems like a given, but investing your retirement savings and letting it grow in value is one of the most basic ways to build up your post-employment income. There are still many people out there who are stashing money away strictly in their bank accounts, but that’s not the most efficient way to grow your retirement savings.

Savings accounts are great for money you’ll use in the next couple of years because it keeps market risk out of your day to day life, but when it comes to money you don’t need for seven or more years, we recommend working with a financial advisor and/or investment manager to make the most of your longer-term money.

Maximize Your 401k Contributions

If you are someone who is within 10 years of retiring, it’s likely that you’re at or near the height of your career and likely your earning potential. That means, it’s also likely that you’ll be paying more in taxes now than you will when you retire, so we recommend making the most of your tax-deferred savings accounts to help lower your tax liability. When you put money in a tax-deferred savings account, you put off paying that income tax until you take your money back out. That means any money you put away would be tax deductible, which could mean saving for retirement could put you in a lower tax bracket this year.

The best part is, if you’re 50 or older, you can put away up to $24,500 in your 401k, which could make a sizable difference in the amount of tax you’re paying in 2018.

Prepare for RMDs Now and Thank Yourself Later

One downside to utilizing those tax-deferred accounts is that eventually, the government comes to collect those taxes in the form of required minimum distributions (RMDs). If you don’t plan for those before they start at age 70.5, those withdrawals could cost you plenty in tax payments, potentially pushing you into a higher bracket.

To help offset those RMDs, consider Roth conversions in years your income is lower. We see this from clients who have settled into their retirement lifestyles and have crossed off their bucket list items early in retirement. By completing a Roth conversion in a year when your income is low, you can pay tax at a lower rate and save money in the long run.

Enlist the Help of a Trusted Advisor

These are just a few of the strategies we use with clients to help them save for retirement and making sure we do them right requires strategic planning and a holistic view of their financial situation. We recommend using an advisor to help you make retirement savings decisions so you can get the best, personalized advice available to help set you up for retirement success.

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

This article was originally published on Nov. 24, 2018 in the Brainerd Dispatch.