The National Institute on Retirement Security states that the funds American workers have set aside for retirement are inadequate to the tune of trillions of dollars. Why? Well, as the old adage goes, failing to plan is as good as planning to fail.
One of the major pitfalls in retirement planning is that many people give up before they ever start. They look at projections of what will be needed to retire and conclude it is simply out of reach, so why even try? In conjunction with this defeatist attitude about saving for retirement, they may also think Social Security will provide them with a safety net. Although Social Security provides at least a part of what those projections tell you is needed, the cold hard reality is that Social Security provides nothing more than a meager income at best.
Do You Already Have One?
Many employers provide retirement plans as part of their benefits package. This, together with Social Security, will get you closer to that projected number. Most employer-funded programs these days are known as defined contribution plans. This means the only certainty is the amount of money that will be contributed by the employer. Along with the employer, employees normally contribute to these plans. One of the most popular forms of defined contribution plan is the 401(k).
Your first objective with these plans should be to contribute enough of your earnings to build up a nest egg that meets your projected goal. The next objective is simply to invest wisely. Defined contributions plans are administered by investment brokers and offer various investment strategies with varying degrees of risk. When you are a number of years away from retiring, you can take more risk and build the nest egg. As you approach retirement, however, money should be moved to more conservative investments that will hold value.
Other forms of retirement plans offered by employers are defined benefit retirement plans. These plans has participant receiving a benefit at a specific future date, at a certain age, and/or after certain years of service to the employer. These plans are nice in that they relieve you of worrying about specific investments. They do not, however, typically pay a benefit that meets the projected retirement number.
Should You Do More?
Whether you are in a defined contribution plan, a defined benefit plan, or have no employer plan, the key is to start saving. Do not put it off until you are out of debt. Chances are you will never start. Take advantage of whatever tax-deferred saving instruments are available, such as Individual Retirement Accounts. But don't be lulled into thinking that those IRA's are a panacea, because you still have to pay tax on the withdrawals.
Finally, do not underestimate how much you might actually need. These days, many parents are still supporting adult children. In addition, as life spans have increased, many retirees find themselves having to care for one or more parents whose own retirement income has become very dated. Health care costs are also volatile. Medicare will not cover all your health expenses, and you never know what your health care issues may be. Consider long-term care insurance to cover some of these gaps.
This article is a service of Wheatley Pritchard & Associates PLLC, Personal Family Lawyer®. One of the main objectives of our law practice is to help families prepare a financial legacy for their family. We do this through a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ where we can identify the best ways for you to ensure your legacy of love and financial security for your family. Call our office to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about retirement strategies and how you can get started planning for your future.