The earlier you start planning for retirement, the better off you’re going to be. That’s hard to argue with. But no matter where you are on your retirement planning journey, there are always great financial planning steps you can take to help you get and stay on the road to a happy retirement.
Time is Money
When it comes to retirement savings, the old expression, “Time is Money” means more than ever. It makes sense that the sooner you start saving, the more you’ll have when your retirement comes. But there’s a phenomenon you can take advantage of that can help your money grow while you’re saving.
It’s called compound interest. This is basically earning interest on the interest. This is how it works: Your principal investment earns interest. The following year, your principal plus last year’s interest earns interest. You could stuff the same amount of cash under your mattress – and you might be able to store away a hefty sum over the years that way – but with compound interest, your money can “grow”. Taking advantage of compound interest can be one of the best ways to build your retirement savings.
Starting to save in your 20s and 30s: Set Yourself Up
If you’re in your 20s or 30s and you’re already thinking about retirement – give yourself a pat on the back. This is the best time to begin planning for your golden years. At this age, a retirement strategy is probably going to be the most flexible, and it’s more likely that your retirement dream can become a reality.
One of the best tools to take advantage of during this time is an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of it. There are two major benefits:
Time: Remember compound interest? The more you invest now in a retirement savings plan, the more you’ll have come retirement time.
Company match: This is the money your employer puts in your 401(k) plan for you. Most employers will match your contributions up to a certain percentage. It’s like free money. Be sure you don’t leave it on the table.
If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) look into starting your own savings plan with the help of a financial professional. There are many options to choose from.
Starting in middle age: Maximize Your Retirement Savings
If you’re in your middle years, you still have some advantages when it comes to a retirement strategy. First, retirement should feel a little less like a fantasy and more like reality at this age – it’s not too far beyond the horizon! Use this reality check as motivation to start some serious planning and saving.
Second, your earnings may be higher on the career curve than they were when you were just starting out. If so, this is a great time to go all out with your savings plan. Try these tips for starters:
Consider an Indexed Savings Account. It can function as a savings tool when you’ve maxed out your 401(k).
Professional financial planning: If you’re having a hard time getting your head around retirement planning, seek financial planning expertise. A financial professional can help make sense of your particular retirement picture. This way you can better identify needs and create strategies to fill them.
Your 50s and 60s: Getting Real About Retirement Income
This is the age when retirement planning gets real. Your thinking may now shift from savings to distributions. The question that arises is how you’ll replace that paycheck you’ve been earning with another source of income, if you’re not willing or able to work beyond a certain age.
Social security benefits: You become eligible to tap into your social security benefits at 60. You can collect full benefits at around 65, but if you wait until you’re 70, you’ll get the largest possible payout from social security.
Distributions: When you’re 59 ½ you can take distributions from your retirement accounts without a penalty. But keep in mind those distributions may count as taxable income.
A good retirement favors the prepared.
No matter where you are on the road to retirement, wise financial planning is the key to a happy and healthy retirement. Start today!