Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Retirement planning is a continuing process that includes financial strategies of savings, investments, social security benefits, and distribution strategies to sustain oneself during retirement. Depending on where you are in life, you're either thinking about retirement constantly or not. In the past, most people worked, and they knew their company would provide a pension once employees retired. Now things have changed, and we are given the responsibility to save and plan for our retirement but lack the expertise or education to do it on our own. According to a recent survey from Bankrate, "52% of American workers say their retirement savings are not where they need to be." These survey findings can either cause you stress or make you bury your head in the sand.
Planning for your retirement doesn't have to be an overwhelming and stressful process. By working with a financial advisor and starting as soon as possible, you can take charge, prioritize, and create a retirement plan based on your goals.
I break down the retirement planning into two phases: Savings and Retirement Income. Each phase has challenges and areas of focus.
The Savings Phase can start in your twenties and it continues until you stop working. Each decade, you will assess at a minimum these areas:
Savings as a percentage of income: The goal is to maximize the contributions yearly and save as much as possible.
Maximizing employer contribution: Take advantage of employer contributions as it's free money.
Account Diversification: Evaluate if you should contribute to a Roth, Traditional retirement account, or even a combination. Account Diversification creates flexibility later to do some tax planning.
Investment Diversification: Manage the risk as you move through this savings phase. Investment Diversification means having a mix of investments, including stocks, bonds, alternatives, and cash, to match your risk tolerance.
The Retirement Income Phase goes into effect when you stop working and live off your savings. This income can come from various sources: social security benefits, pensions, annuities, and investment income, to name a few. During this phase, most of us worry about outliving our savings. Therefore, the main focus during this phase is:
Income Planning Distribution: Develop a plan of how income will be derived to meet the expenses in the most tax-efficient way that meets your goals.
Social Security Benefits: Create a plan to maximize your social security benefits that supports your goals.
Investment Diversification: Consistent review and monitoring of the investment to maintain alignment with your financial plan
Retirement planning is a lifelong process that needs to be intentional and focused. Take a look at five steps to guide you on the next steps to take charge of your retirement:
Create a picture of your retirement. We are all different, and our view of retirement is very different. Begin by getting a clear picture of what's important to you during retirement. Retirement can be relaxing. For some, it's time to read, and for others, retirement is a time to travel, volunteer, or even start your business. Creating a picture of your retirement will help you set priorities on how you want to spend your retirement savings.
Start saving as soon as possible. The earlier in life you start saving your money, the more time it has to grow. It will help if you start by saving 10-15% of your income. Start with what you can and gradually increase your savings if you can't do that. In your early years, cash flow may be tight but contribute enough to get the maximum employer's match. It's free money!!
Invest your savings. You want to diversify your investments and not put all your eggs in one basket. Understanding the level of risk you are taking in your investment is essential to set your expectations.
Plan for retirement. Planning for retirement includes figuring out how much money you will need to have saved and when you want to retire.
Monitor your progress. Monitoring your progress includes reviewing your savings and investments periodically to ensure you are on track.
One of the most challenging steps is getting a clear picture of what retirement looks like for you. Of course, we all retire someday, and the goal is to have a joyful retirement. However, it needs to reflect our dreams and desires; our retirement story will be unique to us.