By the time you reach your mid-50s, you've done a lot in life. You've likely launched a few kids into adulthood and now are beginning to focus on retirement. This quick scorecard can help you quickly determine whether or not you're on track for the retirement you want.
: You should own a home. While it isn't a great investment - and for that reason you shouldn't have too much of your net worth tied up in a home - having a place of your own in retirement will be key. At this point, you would hope to have fewer than ten years left on your mortgage. If you have anything fewer than fifteen and are planning to work until age seventy anyway, you're fine. If you've got a big new home with a big new mortgage, that may be putting your retirement plans at risk.
Credit Card Debt
At your age, credit card debt should be a distant memory. Cards should be paid in full each month, with credit cards serving as a simple transaction tool and not a financing source.
: In your retirement savings, you would optimally have accumulated almost ten times your current income, setting you up nicely for an early retirement. You're in fine shape, however, if you have four or five times your current income in savings - you still have ten years to go. If you have significantly less than four times your current income in savings, you'll want to increase your efforts at saving for retirement, and perhaps look at delaying retirement until you are closer to 70 rather than retiring at 65, giving you more time to save and for your savings to compound.
: It's likely that you have put your kids through college by now (angels sing halleluiah in the background). If not, I'm guessing you tested a little low on the retirement measure above; it's hard to pay for college and save for retirement. Your remaining children are likely in college now or will be soon. You also know exactly what it is costing and how that compares to your savings and income. The key question is how will funding what's left to pay for college impact your retirement.
: It never has been important what you drive. What continues to be important, however, is that you not drive a car that requires you to borrow the money. At your age, you should have the resources to pay cash for a car and the wisdom not to do that too often.
In your mid-fifties, your primary concern should be saving for retirement - unless you are still paying for your kids to get through college. Managing the conflict between these two important goals is one of the great financial challenges families face. You need to be cautious about allowing your generous sense of obligation to your children destroy your retirement - there isn't much time left for you to accumulate the sorts of resources you'll need in retirement. Unless your retirement is fully funded, be careful not to expand the family entitlement programs for your younger children. If state universities were good enough for the older ones, don't feel compelled by anyone to pay for the younger ones to attend an Ivy League school. Stick with your plan so you can enjoy your grandchildren in retirement.