Retirement is a much different animal than it was twenty years ago. People are living longer. The tools used to save for retirement are different. For most of us, saving for retirement won’t happen unless we start it ourselves. Whether you’re starting early or playing catch-up, retirement planning is the best way to protect your financial future.
Retirement planning may seem like a daunting task. Retirement is this complicated far off event. That’s understandable, but it’s part of the problem too. It’s easier to deal with what’s happening now than something ten, twenty, or even thirty years from now. It shouldn’t be and it gets easier once you know where to start. In fact, the retirement planning process can be broken down into five simple steps:
- Define your retirement goals and build a plan around it
- Know and use the best savings tools available
- Set up and automate your monthly retirement savings
- Choose the investments that fit your retirement goals
- Track your progress and make adjustments along the way
This retirement planning guide is meant to be a resource you can refer to often. It’s also a work in progress. It will be added to and updated regularly with new topics on each step.
1. Build Your Retirement Plan
For your retirement to be successful you need to take the first step – it starts with a plan. That may seem easy enough, but most of us skip the planning part and jump right to saving. Saving for “retirement” is good, but what are you actually saving for? Be specific. Use your goals to build your retirement plan and if you’re not sure where to start, a financial advisor can be a great asset.
2. Retirement Savings Tools
Retirement plans are the best savings tools available to you. Each brings its own tax advantages and allows your money to grow tax-free. It’s not your only option but it is the most efficient way to grow your money over time.
The 401k is the most popular retirement plan offered by companies today. It also puts the saving responsibility entirely in the hands of you, the employee. The more you understand your 401k rules and limits, the easier it will be to meet your retirement goals.
IRAs allow you to take advantage of tax deferred savings. You have too choices: you can go with the tax-deductible traditional IRA or the tax-free income from a Roth IRA. Both can be used to supplement other retirement accounts. There are options available to put you on your path to a successful retirement.
- Traditional IRA Rules
- Roth IRA Rules
- All the Investment Possibilities for Your IRA
- Best Place to Open an IRA
Self-Employed Retirement Plans
Whether your self-employed or a business owner with multiple employees, choosing the wrong retirement plan can be costly. Instead, find a retirement plan that fits your cost structure now as well as provides for future business growth too.
3. Start Saving
You’ve got your plan in place. You know which retirement account is best. Now it’s time to start saving. Of course, earlier is better, but so is more. The more money you spend on “stuff”, means less money towards your retirement. Instead, focus on savings first.
4. Choosing Investments
Now that your retirement saving is on track, you need to decide how you want to grow that money. Yes, investing is required. Why? Because by the time your retirement rolls around, the money you save today could have grown many times over due to compounding interest. It doesn’t need to be complicated either. But a basic understanding is needed to get started to stay on track.
- Types of Investment Risk
- Importance of Diversification
- Know Your Investment Horizon
- Different Types of Fund Categories
- How to Choose a Fund That Fits Your Portfolio
- Use an Investment Checklist
5. Track Your Progress
This is the easy part. At least once a year, sit down and do a thorough review of the first four steps. Have your goals changed? Do your retirement accounts allow you to save more next year? Does your income allow you to save more? How did your investments do? Are you still on track to meet your retirement goals? These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to answer.