Money magazine's 101 Ways to Build Wealth package offers blueprints for the different stages of your life on how to achieve real financial security. In tips #78 through #101, we offer advice for 55- to 64-year-olds.
Lighten up living expenses
Housing is the single biggest outlay in retirement: 37% of the average retiree budget, says a new report from the Social Security Administration. Act now to cut costs. Bonus: You may even be able to free up money to save.
81. Seize this market moment. If a smaller home is in the cards, don't dawdle. Nationwide, the inventory of homes for sale is down 20% over the past year, just as buyers are returning. Homes are selling quickly. This won't last. New-home construction is up. And as the market gets even healthier, notes Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko, more sellers will be competing with you.
82. Swap towns. Once the kids are gone, you can trim your costs without sacrificing space. Prices for homes near high-scoring public schools are 2.4 times higher on average than what you'll pay near a low-scoring school, a Brookings Institution study of the 100 biggest metro areas found. Property taxes and other costs can be more than $11,000 a year less.
83. Pay down your mortgage. Say you got a 15-year $300,000 fixed loan at 4.5% three years ago, at age 53. You'll be 68 when it's paid off. By adding $500 to your $2,295 monthly payment, you can shave 2½ years from the loan, save $17,500 in interest, and cut your effective rate to 3.8%. Do your own math with HSH's PreFi calculator at hsh.com.
84. Test-drive a frugal lifestyle. You shouldn't head into retirement without knowing whether you can truly support your lifestyle. Estimate your retirement income, then live on that for a year, suggests adviser Jeff Townsend, author of The Road to Retirement. You can get in one last burst of savings, and if the test is a failure, you have time to adjust by, say, working longer.
Don't get sideswiped by rising prices
97. Hedge against inflation. The purchasing power of $100,000 after 20 years is $55,000, assuming 3% inflation. Given today's modest 2% inflation rate, rising prices may not seem that scary. But eventually the inflation rate will rebound to its historical 3% level or higher.
For protection, you want to own natural-resources companies and other businesses that have pricing power. Those shares are likely to do well when prices heat up. One fund that fills that bill: T. Rowe Price New Era , a member of our Money 70.
98. Ride the M&A wave. Merger arbitrage sounds like a riskier strategy than it is. When a merger is announced, the prices of the stocks involved don't fully reflect the deal value, since about 10% of planned combos fall through. A merger arbitrage fund invests in hundreds of such deals.
"They're not immune to danger, but the downside risk is about what a bond would provide," says Litman Gregory analyst Chris Sawyer. Merger Fund , for example, has gained 5% annually for the past 15 years, but shot up 11% in 2006 during the last M&A wave.