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I am 51 and have never invested before and have nothing set up for a retirement. I need to know if I still have time to put something together so that I can retire? I have a 401K at work with only 10,000 in it today, next pay period I am starting to invest the max the company will allow, but with only 14 yrs left until I am 65 I know that won't be enough. Any help on where to turn now that I have waited so long will be appreciated.
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Not knowing you particular want to be aware of maxing out you deferral percentage.

My company matches $0.50 on the dollar for the first 6% of my salary each pay period. If I max out the $10K that the federal regulations allow before year end, I can not contribute anymore for the year and I miss out on the "Free Money" that my company contributes for the rest of the year.

Example: If I maxed at $10K on September 30, then I cannot contribute anymore for October, November, and December therefore missing my company match ("Free Money").

With the stock market reaching new highs everyday, some would say get your money in early in the year and not be concerned with the company match because the gains will more than offset the loss of the company match lost at the end of the year. My take is the company match is a guarantee no matter if the market is up or down so why miss it?

If your income is over $66,666 (based on my company's 15% max, don't know if that is federal limit of company limit) per year but under $160,000 then I believe you should probably change your percentage periodically (depending on getting a raise, bonus, cash award, etc) in order to finish the year at the $10K that federal regulation allow and gaining the maximum company match ("Free Money"). If you are under $66,666 go for the maximum.

My understanding is the the federal regulations on the maximum contribution you can make is changing the next few years, but I don't have the exact numbers (something like $10.5K for 2000 going up to $15K over the next five years).

PS...My first Post. After I found this information on my company's HR Website I was shocked as to why this was not more advertised. I guess the company's position (as more and more are) is that your financial future is in your hands and besides, if you don't understand this then we don't have to match your contributions through out the year (money stays on the company bottom line, not yours).

Regards, Gordon

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Hi Lynn,

By all means, you have time. It is never too late! The first thing you need to do is start getting smart about retirement costs, investments, etc. You need a well planned program of investing to make sure your money is working as hard as possible and you know the type of lifestyle you will eventually retire too. Surprises are hard to overcome at our ages.

I have two suggestions for you. Read Dr. Kay Shirley's book, "The Baby Boomer Financial Wake-up Call". It will get you thinking about how to develop your long term plan. I found the book an easy read with lots of good examples. Maybe some of the other fools hear can recommend some of their favorites too.

The second thing is to read these message boards religiously. I find the regular readers and board hosts really have a lot to offer. There are several good sites that have good boards to read. They are:

this one;

In a nutshell, what you will find is you need to invest as much as you can into tax deferred accounts like 401's and IRA's, and start a savings program by cutting back as much as possible on current spending.

As you develop your program to retirement you'll have lots of questions. This is the place to ask them.


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I also started late because I had to put three kids through college. You need to develop a plan that will maximize your return. Contribute to get employer matches to your 401K. Eliminate debt, if possible. Pay all credit card balances in full (they generally charge 21% interest). I found that pre-paying my mortgage saved me thousands of dollars in interest payments and made it possible to apply my monthly payments toward investments. Consider, however, that some investments (if successful) may bring you more growth than pre-paying a mortgage. Pre-paying $100 Dollars per month on a $100,000, 30-year mortgage at 7.5% will save you over $56,000 in interest payments and reduce your payment period to just over 20 years. An investment would have to pay over 10% to improve over this (depending on your tax bracket). You can download a free mortgage amortization program from

If your 401K fund does not give you good investment choices, you may want to rollover your funds into an IRA with a stockbroker (e.g. Schwab, etc) where you will be able to select stocks that are agressive enough to meet your needs and risk tolerance.
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Don't despair--it can be done. I started at 40, and am just over 54 now. I obviously started without the Fool, and made a couple of mistakes along the way. Right now, if I had to retire on January 1, 2000 I could do it.

I just did the calculation a few minutes ago. If I withdraw 6% per year, my income would be exactly the same as my current income less Social Security taxes and the contribution to my 401k. In other words, disposable income would remain the same, or possibly even go up since some of the income would come from periodic withdrawals from a stock portfolio and these will be long-term capital gains.

You have 14 years until you are 65--same as I have been investing. The "trick" that worked for me is to remember that 14 years is long-term money. Head over to the Foolish Workshop and look at the strategies there. I wouldn't put short term money into the aggressive strategies, but with 14-15 years you can do very, very well if you keep your wits about you and don't panic if you have a down year.
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Hey Just Starting at 51,

I started four years ago at 50 and have easily doubled my money. Research the investments types that your company offers and continue to see which ones are the top performers. If you can afford a little extra you can always start a Roth IRA seperate from the company 401 and you may never regret it because of the difference in tax savings. Once you get in the six figures, the increases will be like an annual salary if your into stocks. Just keep reviewing your positions and returns as sectors go in and out quickly.

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I want to thank everyone for their reply. I am contributing the max to my 401k, 17%, the most my company will allow. I think I will start a Roth, but at 2000 a year, by 65 that is only 28,000 plus the interest. To me that won't help much when experts say my life expentancy is all the way to 90 yrs +. I have some money I can invest, just need to know where the best place to put it will be. I think I understand no load and "b" investments, so how does one find a place to invest where I get to keep my money, not give it to a broker or pay it away in fees? I know I need an agressive "something" because of my age, I guess that is what I am really looking for here.
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