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In your 60s? Here's how to get your retirement in order

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With the kids (most likely) out of the house, and the traditional career trajectory moving towards its close, the 60s is a good time for people to take stock of their savings with an eye towards retirement.

They're often surprised at what they discover. “People in their 60s often fall on one end of the spectrum or another," says Bryan Kuderna, founder of Kuderna Financial. Some, he says, will find that their savings are on track—and, perhaps, that they're in a better position than they imagined. Others are likely to discover that their limited savings have put retirement out of reach—for the time being, at least.

But regardless of where you are on the spectrum, having a game plan for managing your finances is crucial. Here are five steps to help you start.

Social security is a huge issue: two thirds of Americans in retirement receive over half of their income from it.

Bryan Kuderna, founder of Kuderna Financial

1. Take advantage of freebies

If you need to stretch your income, freebies are a good place start. Once you hit your 60s, many free services, from tax preparation to transportation, become available. To track down these free resources, start with the US government's Eldercare Locator.

Lower income people in their 60s can also get free medical and dental treatment through organizations such as the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics and Donated Dental ServicesState dental associations offer free dentures to seniors, and Lions Club International provides free glaucoma screening, eyeglasses and eye exams.

2. Decide when you'll claim Social Security

Most people start collecting Social Security at age 62, the earliest possible date. But if you put it off longer, your benefits will grow by 8 percent per year, until you hit 70. That can translate into a sizeable boost in your annual Social Security payout.

“Two thirds of Americans in retirement receive over half of their income from Social Security," Kuderna says. “So Social Security is a huge issue."

63-year-old Jacqueline Decime, a former New York City schoolteacher, has already retired, but she says that she plans to start collecting Social Security after she reaches age 66 and a half. During her delay, she's relying on her savings, her 401(k) and her pension. She has also relocated to Georgia, where her cost of living is a lot lower. “My pension goes much further here in Georgia than in New York," says Decime.

Caregiver measuring blood pressure of senior woman at home.

3. Invest in your health

If you haven't already done so, this is a good time to develop a healthcare regimen. People in their 60s are more prone to age-related ailments, such as hearing loss or vision problems; in fact, 62 percent of Americans over age 65 have more than one chronic medical condition. That can quickly eat through your savings.

That's why Decime has focused on taking care of herself. “I try to go to the gym three times a week," she says. "I've lost a lot of weight."

So make—and keep—doctor appointments. Join a gym or simply begin to walk for 30 minutes each day. By being more active, you'll reduce the risk of serious illness or injury—in addition to enjoying the benefits of being in better shape.

4. Work a bit longer

The average American leaves the workforce at age 63, but working a bit longer can do wonders for your savings, and make your monthly bills more manageable. And, of course, staying at your job can help you delay collecting Social Security benefits, which will help them grow.

Even after you retire, if you like your work, think about moving into part-time labor or getting a job as a consultant. The extra money can smooth out the rough spots in your budget. In fact, the AARP Public Policy Institute, which studies labor trends for older workers, says people 65 and older are twice as likely to get part-time work than those aged 25 to 64.

5. Play "what if?"

No matter how much you save, life has a way of throwing curve balls, and it's important to have backup plans to handle various “what if" scenarios. Like what if you get downsized? What if you have to take care of an ailing family member? What if your marriage ends or your partner dies?

If you're not sure about how you'd fare, a Certified Financial Planner or an investment advisor can help. A trusted money-management pro can evaluate your savings, Social Security benefits, and any pension income you may be expecting. They can tell you if you're on track for your retirement goals, and suggest ways to keep you in good financial shape.


Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach, is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and CNBC, among other media outlets.