Health Advocate Blog

Get serious about planning for retirement

Worrying about not having enough money for retirement is a major source of stress for a growing number of people. The fact is, retirement is expensive, and the sooner you can get an idea of what you will need to fund a comfortable retirement and take steps to grow your nest egg, the less stress you will have. It takes educating yourself, adjusting your spending habits and committing to savings. The following tips and tools can help you take control of your financial future for greater peace of mind, whether retirement is several decades or just a few years away.

Get a ballpark estimate of what you’ll need. Some experts estimate you will need at least 70 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living once you no longer work. Free planning tools can help you get the estimates you need to plan your financial route, starting by tracking your current expenses. Visit: https://www.investor.gov/tools/other-resources

See how much Social Security will contribute. On average, Social Security will provide about 40 percent of your post-retirement budget. To close the standard of living gap when you stop working, you’ll need to look into other sources of income like employer-based retirement plans and savings and investing. Find an estimate of your Social Security benefit in the year you plan to retire by visiting:  https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.html

Contribute all you can to your workplace retirement savings plan. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, automatic deductions from your paycheck make it easy to contribute. Many employers contribute up to a certain match, but not more if employees contribute beyond the match. Over time, compound interest can make a big difference—just try to never touch your savings plan until you retire!

Pay off your debts! No investment strategy pays off as well as, or with less risk than, eliminating high interest debt. Most credit cards charge high interest rates–as much as 18% or more. The wisest thing you can do is pay off the balance in full as quickly as possible. Once you’ve paid off your credit card balance, you can budget your money and begin to save and invest. For expert credit counseling and advice on paying down debts, visit: https://www.nfcc.org/

Learn about savings and investment options. IRAs (individual retirement accounts), for instance, allow you to save and invest money for retirement on your own that’s not linked to wages or contributions from an employer. To find out more about IRAs, mutual funds, investing in the stock market,  and other options to make your money grow, visit: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/plan-sponsor/types-of-retirement-plans

Plan to continue working beyond normal retirement age. Each year you delay taking your Social Security benefit beyond the normal retirement age (currently up to age 70), qualifies you for an 8 percent higher amount in your monthly Social Security check. Working longer can postpone the need to dip into your savings and allow it to continue to grow. To see how much you may receive at your full retirement age, visit: www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/agereduction.html

Supercharge your savings strategies. Small savings can really add up! Every time you get a raise, for instance, increase your 401(k) contribution to get the matching dollars from your employer, for example. Or round up to the nearest dollar each time you make a purchase and stash the remaining cash away. For more everyday savings ideas, visit: http://blog.healthadvocate.com/2017/03/ten-easy-ways-to-save-money/

Start downsizing to free up cash. Live a thriftier life. Look at every item you purchase to see if there is a more affordable option. Ask yourself if you “really need” the pricier item or is it better to feel more secure in retirement. For example, you might choose to move to a smaller, less expensive residence, downgrade your car or cable plan, limit dining out in favor of more potlucks, trade a pricey gym membership for home workouts, shop at outlet clothing stores or food stores for bulk items, and so on.

Consider starting a “side hustle.” Whether you can do some freelance writing, dog sit, rent out a spare room on Airbnb, make craft items to sell or take on another secondary source of income, the earnings can help you save for retirement—and limit your withdrawals from your savings when you no longer work.

Retirement planning depends on many individual factors. Consider working with a professional financial advisor for guidance.