How to Plan for Retirement
Many Americans struggle just to pay the bills, so it’s no wonder that the average American is vastly underprepared for retirement. The average amount of retirement savings has declined in the past several years, leaving many looking at the frightening prospect of living longer than their retirement funds. Even those Americans who save regularly often do not save nearly enough, and find themselves in need of a quick financial reality check.
Whether you invest in a DRIP (Direct Reinvestment Programs), your company’s 401k plan, TSP (Thrift Savings Program) for the government and military, a SEP, or your own IRA or Roth IRA, investing regularly and early represents a vital component of any sound retirement plan.
Let’s be clear, everyone needs a retirement plan. How much do you really need?
Calculate retirement needs here, and make certain that factors such as annual expected expenditures, lifestyle choices, current amount saved, and current income have all been considered. Knowing where you stand now and where you’d like to stand on the day of your retirement can make all the difference.
I often get asked questions about saving and investing for retirement.
Q: What stops people from saving for retirement?
A: Three things:
First, people think that they don’t make enough to save enough to make a difference. Remember that $100 saved per month for 50 years at an 8% return is $798,000! Small amounts add up.
Second, people often delay saving and investing because they hope that they will make more income later, so they decide to delay saving until they make more money. People say, “Oh, I have plenty of time to save for retirement.” The reality is that starting early gives your money more time to work for you, and when you do generate more income, chances are you will also have more ways to spend that money. Starting now is critical to a successful long term plan.
Third, people are confused about all of the investment options available to them. They are afraid that they will make the wrong decision, so they take no action at all.
Q: What can people do to take action?
A: Start by creating a monthly spending plan, so you know what you make and where your expenses are. This is the interactive budget that I use. (Under “Free business forms”) It helps to see where the expenses are.
Next, track all spending for a month so you are using accurate numbers. Most people underestimate what they spend, and they creates a shortfall during retirement years.
Finally, if you need help figuring out what to do, finding a fee-only financial planning is an increasingly popular option. Fee-only planners do not get a commission when you buy or sell stocks, nor are they paid by any financial investment company. They are paid by the client for their time and advice. I am partial to the fee-only people at the Garrett Financial Planning Group (GarrettPlanningNetwork.com) because I attended their retreat this summer and I love their attitude toward genuinely helping their clients. I also use a traditional financial planner to help me stay on track.
Trimming back on unnecessary expenses now, and investing those dollars today, can add up to a substantial difference when the time comes to retire. Even a few extra dollars a paycheck can significantly impact your total savings over the long-term. We need to take hold of our financial futures ourselves, and take responsibility for our own financial situations.
Check out the infographic below to see how your retirement savings compares to the national average, and for more quick tips to help prepare for your own golden years.