to Secure a More Certain Future
Ready? Set? Retire. Saving for retirement is best approached as a marathon; making steady gains over time. But for many it becomes a sprint; racing against the clock to make sure the money won’t run out. Certified Financial Planner John Hall, President of Lynchburg Wealth Management, takes us step by step to the finish line—no matter how late the start.
No Time Like the Present
Depending on where you are right now in life or your career, you either have already or will at some point think about retirement, and what it will take financially to get there.
“The answer to the question ‘When should I start?’ is almost always ‘right now’,” says Hall. “The first step to take in prioritizing retirement savings is to start. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.”
A workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), can help you get started and stay on track through regular contributions, deducted right from your paycheck. That is particularly true if your employer matches what employees put in. Contribute at least enough to guarantee you get your company’s full match.
If you don’t have a workplace plan, or your employer does not offer a match, Hall says saving through an IRA is a good option. He suggests a Roth IRA if you have earned income that doesn’t exceed qualification limits.
Above and Beyond—You’ll Be Glad You Did
If you can afford to set aside more than what your company will match, Hall says contribute more.
To make sure you’re getting the best bang for your above-and-beyond bucks toward retirement, Hall suggests comparing the costs of your employer plan with other retirement savings options, such as IRAs.
Raise Now=Raise Later
Just imagine what that extra two to three percent a year could add up to years from now.
Every time you get a raise, Hall suggests increasing your retirement savings contributions. You won’t miss it. “That way, you’re putting away more money but it’s not hurting your take-home pay,” he says.
Age is More Than Just a Number, It’s a Strategy
Just as your needs and priorities change from your first job to your last, so should your retirement portfolio.
The right asset allocation, which means the mix of the types of investments you have, should reflect how close you are to retirement.
Hall says consider investments, such as equities, when planning your long-term goals, while other investments are best used for near-term needs.
“When you’re approaching retirement, or when it’s within a ten-year window, then yes it often makes sense to ensure that a certain portion of your retirement savings is invested more conservatively,” says Hall. “This is a rule-of-thumb, though, as everyone’s circumstances are different.”
Hall says this is where the advice of a good financial planner can truly be beneficial. You can discuss your individual situation with a professional and together develop your personal investment strategy.
College or Retirement?
Some kids will inevitably wind up on the five-year college plan, but that’s not where mom and dad want to be when it comes to retirement savings.
As noble as it is to want your children to come out of college debt-free, parents need to think of their own futures first.
“When it comes right down to it, it’s possible to borrow for education, but not so much for retirement,” says Hall.
For that reason, Hall typically recommends prioritizing retirement savings over education savings if you must choose between the two.
“It’s the old adage of putting on your air mask before helping those around you,” says Hall. “That said, if you start early enough, it can be feasible to save for and fund both goals. The earlier you start, the more realistic this is.”
Making Up for Lost Time
So you blinked and retirement is almost here, but your savings are not there yet.
It turns out it’s never too late to do something when it comes to your retirement savings.
“We can’t change what’s happened up until this point, but we can change how we’re going to save going forward,” says Hall.
Hall says amassing a huge nest egg becomes more difficult the closer one gets to retirement, but there are still steps to put even the most seasoned procrastinators in better positions.
If you’re 50 or older, look into certain savings tools, like IRAs, that have “catch-up” provisions. Such provisions can help some, but you’ll want to speak with a professional financial adviser who can help you take full advantage of them.
Don’t Believe Everything You See or Hear
You’re flipping channels and you see the guy who played a beloved TV dad, telling you how to invest your hard-earned money for your very real future. Remember—he gets paid to say that.
“If it’s being sold by an out-of-work actor on late-night television, it’s probably not the best idea in the world,” says Hall. “Investments that are sold with a pitch that plays on your fears, your politics, or that ‘guarantee’… something that sounds too
good to be true likely is indeed too good to be true.”
“Find a financial partner that you can trust,” says Hall. “You’ll know when it feels right.”
Disclaimer: This article is generalized in nature and should not be considered personalized financial, legal, or tax advice. All information and ideas provided should be discussed with an advisor, accountant, or legal counsel prior to implementation.