Planning for Retirement

If you have any income, you should be saving for your retirement.

Most of us plan to retire at some point and enjoy our golden years. Some of us, however, will be forced to retire due to health or other circumstances. In any case, planning ahead to have security for the future is important for us all.

Creating a Retirement Savings Plan

There is no hard and fast rule as to what a retirement plan should contain. It can be very simple or extremely detailed. You can develop it yourself or seek the advice of a professional financial advisor. Regardless of the scope of your plan, here’s the basic steps you need to take:

1: Start Saving for Retirement… Now

Just start saving. Set aside 15% of your pre-tax income into a retirement account. If you’re in your 40s or 50s, and just starting to save for retirement, you’ll need to bump that up to 25% or more. And, you’ll need to plan on working a few years longer.

Take advantage of any 401(k) matching offered by your employer and consider the differences between a Roth and Traditional IRA to determine which is best for you. Consult a professional financial advisor about risk-based investments, such as mutual funds, stocks and bonds.

2: Set Your Financial Goals

Calculate how much you will have for retirement based on your current annual savings and years left till retirement. You should plan on 80% to 100% of your pre-retirement income for each year you will spend in retirement. Your retirement income could come from three sources: employee retirement plans, personal savings and investments, and social security benefits.

Outside of retirement, what else do you need to save for? College education? Home purchase? Traveling? Fine tune your budget to incorporate all your savings goals. Check out our managing money and budgeting tips. Determine how much money and time it will take to reach each of your financial goals. And don’t forget to factor in inflation.

3: Calculate Your Net Worth

Your income and expenses are only part of the financial puzzle. You also need to identify everything you own (your assets) and everything you owe (your liabilities) before you can tell how realistic your retirement and other savings goals are.

4: Review & Revise

Check your progress at least once a year and revised your plan as necessary. Changes in the economy, your income and your expenses could significantly impact your savings plan. Make sure you stay on top of it and seek the assistance of a professional financial advisor if you need help.

Ready to Retire? Not So Fast…

Before you set a date to leave the workforce, there are a few things you’ll need to think about first:

1. Review Your Portfolio

Review the three sources of income in your retirement portfolio (employee retirement plans, personal savings and investments, and social security benefits). 

Specifically, you’ll need to:

  • Discuss your employee retirement benefits with someone in your employer’s human resources department.
  • Consider reallocating some of your investments to reduce your risk.
  • Review your IRA portfolio to determine when you must begin taking minimum required distributions of any of the funds.
  • Check your latest Social Security Statement to see what you’ll have coming to you once you retire.

2. Review Your Budget

Add up the income you expect to receive in retirement and compare it with your projected expenses. If it’s not enough to maintain your desired standard of living, you may want to delay your retirement.

3. Apply For Social Security Benefits

If you’ve decided to go ahead and retire, you’ll need to choose the month you want to start receiving Social Security benefits. There could be long term benefits in delaying your social security benefits. If you plan to retire within the next 12 months, arrange to talk with a Social Security Administration representative. 

How To Apply for Social Security

Apply online at, or make an appointment for your application to be taken over the phone or in person at the local Social Security office. When you apply, you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year
  • Your discharge papers, if you served in the military
  • Your spouse’s birth certificate, if you’re both applying for benefits
  • Your children’s birth certificates, if they’re applying for children’s benefits
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status

You may also be asked for the following information:

  • Your retirement date
  • Your date and place of birth
  • Your total earnings last year and the amount you expect to earn this year
  • Account information, if you wish to use direct deposit
  • Dates of any railroad work
  • The date and place of your marriage (and any prior marriages)

Don’t put off retiring if you’re having trouble tracking down a particular document or bit of information. A Social Security representative may be able to help.

Remember, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. Continue to review and revise your plan, and consult professional advice to make sure you’re on the right track.
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