Ask yourself, “What will my golden years hold for me?” Is the answer a comfortable home near a golf course? Free time to spend with your grandchildren? Or even a cross-country journey or trip around the world?
Whatever your answer may be, the goals you dream about today can be yours tomorrow–if you understand what is required to fulfill them, set a course to meet the challenge of doing so, and seek solid professional assistance along the way.
Understand Why Planning is Needed
While your retirement date may still be several years in the future, and the goals you dream about today may seem even more distant, it is never too early to begin preparation. A look at factors that affect the future of all retirees can help you focus on the importance of preparing for the future now. Consider the following:
- Increased longevity and early retirement are giving Americans more “golden years” to enjoy–and to plan for.
- Inflation, whether high or low, affects investment dollars steadily, year-by-year reducing their “real” value and, thereby, reducing the purchasing power you will have to make your retirement dreams a reality.
- Escalating medical costs affect both young and old, but can be devastating to retirees on a fixed income.
Determine How Much You Will Need for Your “Nest Egg”
What will you need to pursue your retirement goals? By completing the “Checklist for Retirement Planning” which follows, and utilizing the charts below, you can see where you are now, where you need to go to pursue your goals, and what you need to do to help manage the journey confidently.
A Checklist for Retirement Planning
Once you have identified your goals and attached a monetary value to them, you should survey your progress thus far, and see how much farther you have to go–or where you need to go if you are just beginning. The Checklist may also be used for an annual check up on the health of your retirement planning program.
_____ Analyze your present situation, including income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. (If you keep a regular budget and expense records, this is where the time you have invested in the past can really pay off — the information for your analysis will be right at your fingertips!)
_____ Find out how much you can expect to receive from Social Security, veteran benefits, and pension plans.
_____ Estimate how much you should receive from interest earned on savings, investments, and life insurance, as well as from real estate rentals.
_____ Review your life, health, and disability insurance policies to see whether they meet your present and future needs.
_____ Try to pay off significantly large bills now to avoid facing them when you retire.
_____ Determine which of your expenses are likely to decrease after you retire and which are likely to increase.
_____ Set your monthly and annual financial retirement goals.
_____ Determine the amount you must begin setting aside monthly and yearly to close the gap (shortfall) between your retirement income goals and your potential retirement income.
_____ Stick to your plan and look forward to a comfortable retirement!
Explore Basic Sources of Retirement Income
Because you are working now, you may be unable to imagine how you would live without the annual income from your job, career, or business. Perhaps you have some investments, but wonder how they could produce enough earnings to replace your employment income without depleting principal.
You will most likely be able to count on some Social Security retirement benefits, but remember: The more you earn now, the smaller the percentage of your income that will be replaced by Social Security after retirement.
You may also be able to count on some Veterans Benefits, but they may only be enough to supplement other income sources.
You may already be enrolled in an Employer-Sponsored Pension Plan, such as a 401(k) or a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), which offer you tax-deferred, regular savings. If you are affected by current trends toward an increase in job-switching and movement away from multi-year career paths within one organization, however, you may not realize the full benefits of an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
The reality is that you will probably need a personal investment plan for funding your retirement.
Make Investments Prudently
Once you realize you need an investment plan and have set your retirement funding goals, the process of choosing funding vehicles for your retirement is a challenging experience. To determine the plan appropriate for your personal needs, you must consider the following:
The Time Remaining to Build Your “Nest Egg.” The number of years between now and when you retire will affect your choice of investments. Consider investments designed for growth, income, or a combination of both.
Your Investment Personality. Understanding this factor is a critical, but often overlooked, ingredient in your financial planning. Insight into your risk tolerance will help allow you to choose the investment vehicles with which you will be comfortable and through which you can pursue your retirement funding goals.
Know Your Projected Retirement Needs. The determinations you made previously will affect how much you need to invest to reach full funding of your goals.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial professional prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. No investment strategy or risk management technique can guarantee return or eliminate risk in all market environments. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.