The whopping 32.4 percent return generated by the S&P 500 stock index last year seems to have enriched many households.
Americans' total liquid net worth, which excludes housing assets, soared 16 percent last year to $41.2 trillion, according to a report from financial research firm Hearts & Wallets that was obtained by Money magazine.
That gain exceeded the 5 to 12 percent range of the preceding four years.
As for retirement savings, the biggest increase in IRA and 401(k) assets came among people ages 65-74. That gain totaled 52 percent, taking the total to a record high of $3.5 trillion.
Many people in that age bracket aren't retiring yet, so they're still saving for when they do, Hearts & Wallets spokeswoman Lynn Walters told Money. And some of those who have retired are discovering they don't need to spend as much money as they thought, so they're still saving.
Meanwhile, Emily Brandon, senior retirement editor at U.S. News & World Report, offers several year-end tips for those planning on retirement next year.
- Decide when to begin taking Social Security benefits. In general, the longer you wait, the greater your payouts are.
- Make sure to sign up for Medicare as soon as you're eligible. "You should start submitting the paperwork for Medicare up to three months before age 65," Christopher Rhim, a certified financial planner for Green View Advisors in Norwich, Vt., tells Brandon. "There are some financial penalties if you sign up later."
- Consider rolling over your 401(k) into your IRA. Doing so may save you on fees and give you more investment choices.
- Make a long-term investment plan.
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