Retirement Planning

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.

Getting Started

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, but it gets easier once you know where to start. In fact, the retirement planning process can be broken down into the five simple steps below.

This retirement planning guide is meant to be a resource you can refer to often. Or you can browse through the category below.

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.

How Much Money do You Need to Retire?
Are You Saving Enough for Retirement
How to Find a Financial Advisor

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.

A Saver's Guide to Retirement Accounts


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.

401k Plan: The Definitive Guide
401k Rollover Options


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.

Best Retirement Plans for the Self-Employed

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.

Set Up Automatic Savings
How to Save More Money Now
A Simple Plan To Save More Money
How To Start An Automatic Investment Plan

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.

Asset Allocation and Rebalancing
How to Do an Investment Review

2016 IRA Contribution Limits Stay The Same

IRA Contribution LimitsA major step in the retirement planning guide is to understand all the savings tools available. The IRA is the most versatile tool in your retirement toolbox. To take advantage of it, you should stay on top of yearly changes to the IRA contribution limits.

Each year the IRS announces the inflation adjusted numbers for the traditional and Roth IRA contribution limits along with the traditional IRA deduction limits. These cost of living adjustments are made when the inflation index meets a certain criteria. In turn, the adjustments prevent inflation from eating away at the IRA limits and your ability to save for retirement.

2016 IRA Contribution Limits

The 2016 IRA contribution limits will look just like it did for 2015. Both the traditional and Roth IRA will have the same contribution limit, which will max out at $5,500. If you are 50 years or older, there is a $1,000 catch up contribution. Continue Reading…

2016 401k Contribution Limits Stay the Same

401k Contribution LimitsThe 401k plan is the most popular retirement plan offered by companies today. One of the keys to retirement planning is knowing about the savings tools available to you. If that happens to be a 401k, you have one of the best tools available to save for retirement. Better make the most of it.

Every year the IRS must calculate cost of living adjustments for the 401k and other retirement plans. In keeping with tradition, the IRS recently released a slew of information for the 2015 tax year including the 401k contribution limits.

The decision to raise the 401k limits is based on an inflation index, specifically the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If the CPI meets a certain threshold the IRS adjusts the contribution limits accordingly. Some years inflation is high enough to call for a change other years it’s not. Either way, the point is to make sure the limits aren’t eaten away by inflation. Continue Reading…

A Saver’s Guide To Retirement Accounts

Guide to Retirement AccountsWhether you’re putting money in or taking money out of a 401k or IRA, understanding how retirement accounts work, the different rules around each, and how these tools fit into your retirement plan has become a big part of meeting your retirement goals.

Retirement accounts are the single greatest savings tools around because of the tax benefits. Delaying taxes on dividends, capital gains, and income lets your savings grow faster without taking a tax hit each year. That tax savings compounds in a huge way when combined with a long-term horizon. And the tax deduction, if you qualify, has the added bonus of lowering your tax bill. All you need is a basic understanding of how retirement accounts work to turn the tax code into more savings for you. Continue Reading…

How Much Money Do You Need To Retire?

What's Your Number?The million dollar question. Or is it two million? Either way, it’s hard to save for anything without knowing how much you need. When it comes to how much you need to retire, there’s no perfect answer.

The answer, in its entirety, is a series of educated guesses, along with dirty math, to come up with a fuzzy number you’ll need to live off throughout retirement.

I don’t say this to discourage you. Understand, we’re predicting the future based on past averages. You’re projections need to account for: inflation, expected returns (and an asset allocation to get you there), your ability to save, and your behavior along the way.

It’s simply not a perfect science. Retirement calculators work in a vacuum, reliant on fixed numbers. The economy and the stock market don’t move in a straight line or act rationally at all times. Continue Reading…

All The IRA Investment Options For Your Money

IRA Investment OptionsSaving for retirement is a goal with a limited number of ways to meet it. Did you know that your IRA investment options extend beyond stocks, bonds, and mutual funds? You have more choices than think.

An IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is just a tax shelter. You use it to store money for retirement, so it can grow tax-free. You see, when you open an IRA and fund it, the money just sits there in the form of cash. Some banks or brokers may offer an interest rate on that money, some don’t. But with rates at all time lows, that money won’t grow very fast. In order to boost that growth, you need to invest it in other assets. Thankfully, the IRS gives you some leeway with all the IRA investment options available.

That doesn’t mean you need to invest in each one. There is nothing wrong with taking a nontraditional approach when investing your retirement money. Just make sure you understand the costs and risks associated with any investment before you begin. And do your homework before jumping into something new. Continue Reading…

Do You Know Who Your Beneficiary Is?

Beneficiary ReviewA beneficiary review should be on your yearly financial to-do list. When you get life insurance or start a new retirement account, filling out the beneficiary designation is part of the process. It lets the company know where that money goes when you’re gone. But is that name you wrote down years ago still the person you want as a beneficiary? If not, the wrong person will get your money.

I recently got my monthly IRA statement from TD Ameritrade. Part of the email was a simple question that asked “Is your IRA beneficiary up-to-date?”.

Good question.

I wasn’t slacking on keeping it updated, since I haven’t had a reason to change it. But keeping track of it certainly wasn’t a priority either. Continue Reading…