Ten ways to prepare for retirement

Published 8:10 pm Saturday, August 27, 2011

Financial security in retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and commitment and, yes, money. Putting money away for retirement is a habit we can all live with.

Fewer than half of Americans have calculated how much they need to save for retirement.

In 2009, 13 percent of private industry workers with access to a defined contribution plan did not participate. The average American spends 20 years in retirement.

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1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals. If you are already saving, whether for retirement or another goal, keep going. You know that saving is a rewarding habit. If you’re not saving, it’s time to get started. Start small if you have to and try to increase the amount you save each month.

The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Make saving for retirement a priority. Remember, it’s never too early or too late to start saving.

2. Know your retirement needs. Experts estimate that you will need about 70 percent of your preretirement income — lower earners, 90 percent or more — to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. The key to a secure retirement is to plan ahead.

3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan. If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy.

4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan. If your employer has a traditional pension plan, check to see if you are covered by the plan and understand how it works. Ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension benefit.

5. Consider basic investment principles. How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you’ll have saved at retirement.

6. Don’t touch your retirement savings. If you withdraw your retirement savings now, you’ll lose principal and interest and you may lose tax benefits or have to pay withdrawal penalties. If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan, or roll them over to an IRA or your new employer’s plan.

7. Ask your employer to start a plan. If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, suggest that it start one. There are a number of retirement saving plan options available.

8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account. You can put up to $5,000 a year into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); you can contribute even more if you are 50 or older. You can also start with much less. IRAs also provide tax advantages.

9. Find out about your Social Security benefits. Social Security pays benefits that are on average equal to about 40 percent of what you earned before retirement. You should receive a Social Security Statement each year that gives you an estimate of how much your benefit will be and when you can receive it. For more information, visit the Social Security Administration’s website or call 1-800-772-1213.

10. Ask Questions. While these tips are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll need more information. Hope this helps. It’s time to start thinking about your retirement.

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