From the time we begin working at our first full-time jobs, opportunities are presented for us to begin financial planning for retirement. Because many people begin their careers during the early to mid 20s, they do not always take evaluating options seriously.
As the years pass and retirement becomes a more tangible topic, many people realize that they are not financially prepared to enter retirement. This realization can add unnecessary stress to your life. Rather than waiting until it is too late and realizing that retirement is not an option for you, or that it will require dramatic lifestyle changes, start making gradual changes now.
Understanding how much income you will need to live comfortably in retirement is critical to your planning. Five questions that you should ask yourself:
- At what age do I plan to retire?
- Will I have other sources of income (Social Security, real estate, etc.)?
- Is my current retirement fund investment rate high enough to meet my financial needs?
- Do I have enough funds for at least 20 years of retirement, regardless of my retirement age?
- What type of retirement do you want to have?
When planning for retirement, most people have not answered many of these questions. We save for an arbitrary retirement goal that does not consider our retirement goals. Do you want to be a world traveler? Do you know how much of your pre-retirement income you would like to have each month? Do you know what your Social Security benefit will be?
While these questions may seem like common sense, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, half of Americans begin saving for retirement without understanding how much money they will actually need to retire. 30% of employees do not contribute to their company sponsored 401K plan. And, with life expectancy rising in the U.S., the average retirement is 20 years.
The issues with retirement planning extend beyond not being aware of the best approach to planning for a successful retirement. Many people know the necessary steps to undertake, but stray from their plan during difficult times. The market crashes and we lower our investment percentages for our 401K. Financial difficulties occur and we make withdrawals against our retirement nest egg. Or, we put all of our eggs in one basket and do not explore individual retirement plans to supplement our 401K and Social Security income.
And, the biggest mistake that people make? They do not consult a financial adviser to help assess their finances and help them develop a clear plan with goals, checkpoints and secondary options to help make sure that a successful retirement is within reach. Think about it – when people are sick, they visit the doctor. When they purchase homes, they hire a real estate professional. If legal advice is needed, they hire an attorney. In so many areas of their lives, people readily identify the need for professional support and do not hesitate to pursue it. Yet, only 52% of pre-retirees and 44% of retirees have financial advisers, in spite of research that strongly suggests that they are a much-needed resource for retirement planning.
Rather than viewing financial advisers as an additional expense that negatively impacts retirement funding, financial advisers should be viewed as powerful tools to maximize the return on your retirement investments. The questions to plan effectively for retirement are endless. Answering one question can generate two additional follow-ups. Financial planning for retirement is complicated and too important to your future to leave it to chance. A qualified financial adviser can bring focus to your planning and educate you so that you are making the best decisions for your life. Contact a retirement specialist and develop a concrete plan for your future.