5 Basic Tips for Creating a Solid Retirement Plan

You know what the picture is supposed to look like: You spend your whole life on the job, working toward that magical retirement age when your golden years begin — that era when you're rewarded for  your life's labors with the time and resources to pursue your passions, whether it be traveling, spending time with your grandchildren, or pursuing a favorite hobby. But with a rocky economy and the cumulative changes over the last generation, that picture might not be so clear.

No matter how near or distant your retirement may be, there are more than a few simple things you can do to prevent your retirement picture from blurring into something unrecognizable. Consider these basic tips to see to it that your retirement is spent doing what you love, and ensure your retirement picture develops the way you've always hoped.

A good advisor can talk you through the process, recommend appropriate investment tools, offer practical advice on savings, and what's more, keep an eye on your retirement portfolio. Ask friends or colleagues for some trusted advisors, and then get to work.

1. Set your retirement goals: As with everything you've worked for in your life, a secure retirement is a goal you must aim to achieve. Think about what you want your retirement picture to look like. Does it involve living in a paid-off home or relocating to a house on the beach? Would you like to spend your money on yourself, donate to charities, or provide for your children? Consider your retirement picture and what it will take to make it all come together. Be realistic about your goals, and start making some sacrifices now so you don't have to make them when you're 80 years old.

2. Start planning now: Whether you've just begun your professional career or are looking at retiring in five years or less, start taking the steps to prepare now. If you're on the younger side, establish a Roth IRA or participate in your employer-sponsored 401(k), and fund these retirement vehicles with as much as you can. If your retirement is in the not-too-distant future, contribute the maximum to your retirement accounts, and look to see if you need to modify the mix of your portfolio so that it isn’t as aggressive. This may mean that you'll have to readjust your spending and savings lifestyle today, but it will pay off in the years to come.

3. Reevaluate your life expectancy: It's no secret that the average American is living longer than ever, thanks to tremendous medical advancements, but you might be surprised by just how long your retirement years could last, and consequently, how long your retirement funds must last. According to the Society of Actuaries, a 65-year-old man has a 41 percent chance of living to age 85, and a 20 percent chance of surviving to age 90. A 65-year-old woman has even better odds. She has a 53 percent chance of living to age 85, and an impressive 32 percent chance of reaching age 90. With these statistics in mind, ramping up your savings is more crucial than ever.

4. Determine your Social Security benefits: Did you know the longer you delay retirement, the larger your Social Security checks grow? While you can officially start drawing funds at age 62, if you hold off until age 70, your benefit amount will be substantially more. Even if you wait until age 66, your Social Security checks will grow by 30%.  There are many more strategies to get the most from Social Security, especially if you're married. To explore your options and determine when you'll begin to draw Social Security benefits, visit www.SSA.gov.  They even have an online retirement estimator to help guide your decision.

5. Work with a trusted advisor: If you really want to get the best out of your retirement plan, it's best to place it in the hands of a capable retirement specialist. A good advisor can talk you through the process, recommend appropriate investment tools, offer practical advice on savings, and what's more, keep an eye on your retirement portfolio. Ask friends or colleagues for some trusted advisors, and then get to work.


If you would like help setting your retirement goals, looking at the future to see when you can afford to retire, or figuring out how to maximize your social security give my office a call so we can sit down and make sure you have a plan for your retirement.

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