In my early 40's, what would be the best moves to start ensuring a solid retirement?
Answers | 2
First -- make sure you aren't carrying high-interest debt. Consider paying off any credit cards which are bleeding your wealth away.
Second -- make sure you're prepared for the unexpected -- in a couple of ways: (a) an emergency fund - usually plain old cash in a savings account - enough to cover full cost of living for 3-6 months; (b) insurance -- health, of course, as well as disability, and - especially if you have anyone depending on your income - maybe life insurance
Third -- now, finally, start putting money into retirement accounts. If your employer offers a 401k, and especially if the employer *matches* contributions (i.e., "free money") - put as much in there as you can comfortably put away. Most 401k plans offer default investment options which are some form of age-based target-date retirement funds -- those may not be the best options, but they are very often a very good start.
If your employer's plan either doesn't offer a match (no free money) -- or the employer plan is especially bad (unfortunate investment choices, high expenses) -- consider putting in only enough to get the match (if there is one) and putting anything more directly into an IRA or Roth IRA.
One more thing -- you're almost certainly paying social security taxes (unless you're covered by a pension, perhaps, such as many government employees get). Make sure you're getting all the credit for the SS taxes you've been paying -- log on to and get your SS statement and verify the entire earnings history they've got recorded there. They'll also give you a "protection" of future SS benefits, but if you're in your early 40s, while you can count on getting something -- you may not get quite what they project, since the system is not currently adequately funded for all the benefits promised.