It’s Never Too Late to Make Smart Money Decisions

By: Karen Schaeffer, CFP®

Published: October, 2022


Late in Your Career
“Wish I started sooner” is the classic lament for people finding themselves on the far side of midcareer and still looking for the on-ramp to financial confidence. Rather than stress about what could have been, take comfort in knowing with a little focus, there is a path to a comfortable retirement even for the late bloomers. Sorry, no magic wand here, but a combination of making more, spending less, and modifying the goals can get most to a pretty good place.

  • Consider working a little past normal retirement age. Every year we can put off living on a pension, collecting a Social Security check, and spending down savings, the more comfortable the eventual full retirement lifestyle.
  • Don’t like that idea, what about working part-time as a young retiree? Just earning enough to push off taking distributions from TSP while it continues to grow can be a game changer.
  • Think about downsizing sooner rather than later to spend less on maintenance, utilities, taxes, and insurance. And, if the downsize frees up some money, it might be just the jump start needed to take savings rate from worrisome to on track.
  • Scrutinize expenses with fresh eyes. Be willing to cancel subscriptions and memberships, rein in dining out and expensive coffees, and other discretionary spending.
  • Direct this new-found money into your TSP. If that’s already at the maximum contribution limit, consider contributing to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). 
  • Avoid the temptation to be too aggressive or too conservative with your investment choices. Just right for you depends primarily on when you are likely to spend the money and a bit on your personal temperament.
  • Don’t go broke educating children. Focus on keeping the cost of education low. If debt is required, make sure it is in the child’s name.
  • Speaking of debt, keep it under control. Zero in on zero credit card debt and minimal reliance on car and home repair loans. 
Late in the Year
I can’t be the only one wondering how it can possibly be October! The year may be racing by but that doesn’t mean all opportunities are lost. Before you head out to forage for pumpkins this weekend, set aside a few money minutes and end the year strong.
  • Making the most of your TSP? The contribution limit for the year is $20,500 (unless you’re already 50 or will be by December 31, 2022, which makes you eligible to add up to another $6,500). Head over to, and increase your contribution – every dollar helps.
  • And while you’re studying your paystub, are you having enough withheld for taxes? Now is the time to fire up your tax prep software or contact your tax preparer to make sure you’re ready for your tax bill in April.
  • You might want to ask your financial or tax advisor if it makes sense to “harvest” any losses in your taxable investment accounts. Done properly, today’s losses can offset gains when happier market days return.
  • Have an FSA, Flexible Spending Account, for uninsured health and wellness expenses? Don’t forget the use-it-or-lose it nature of these tax advantaged accounts and start scheduling some spending opportunities.


Late in the Day
  • Pause to acknowledge that tomorrow brings more opportunities to make smart money decisions.
  • Pick one thing that you want to accomplish, divide it into manageable action items and decide what can realistically be accomplished tomorrow, this week, this month. 
  • Congratulate yourself for taking your first steps to financial security! 


Karen Schaeffer, CFP® is the Managing Member and Co-founder of Schaeffer Financial LLC, a financial consulting firm in suburban Washington, D.C. She has been advising clients for over thirty-five years and has developed a diverse client base including professional women, Foreign Service Officers, foreign nationals, and Federal government employees. She has been presenting seminars for NITP for over 25 years.

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