Five keys to winning the retirement game

Whether you are 65 or 35, these keys will help you develop a retirement plan that works for you.

Things just aren't like they used to be. No more simply graduating high school and off to the factory. Then 40 years later, retire on a pension, company health insurance and golf three times a week. We are all more engaged in making a plan for our own retirement.

Here are five keys for creating a retirement game plan in today's changing world:

1. Stay out of debt. If you're nearing retirement, you're part of the Baby Boom. Baby boomers aren't as good at saving as their folks were. If you like to spend money, then focus on paying cash! If you don't have the money today, learn to save for purchases. Two, three or four months later, you'll have the cash. Five to 10 years from retirement is not the time to be taking on new debt.

2. If you're 15 years from retirement—or less—focus on paying down any mortgages you hold. Going into retirement with your mortgage paid off has two advantages:

-It's one less bill in your retirement budget. Don't forget, you will still have property tax, home maintenance, and repair, but no mortgage payment.

-The equity in your home CAN be used to get you through an unexpected emergency down the line. Especially if you take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) before you retire. This is usually very inexpensive to set up and gives you the RIGHT to borrow money against your home IF you choose. Typically a HELOC is good for 10 years. It's pretty cheap insurance against an unexpected need.

3. Save enough for retirement. Many people don't know how much to save for retirement—or even where to begin. An independent, fee-only, fiduciary financial planner is a great resource to help you calculate the correct amount YOU need for your situation. Here's a handy guideline for milestones to shoot for:

-At age 35, have one year's worth of your current salary saved.

-At age 45, have three years' salary saved.

-At age 55, have five years' salary saved.

-At age 67(at retirement), have eight to 11 times your current annual salary saved.

4. Stick to a rigorous budget. For Baby Boomers, this can be a tough concept. But the better you understand what you NEED to live on, the sooner you will be ready for 30-40 years of unemployment (retirement). Make sure your retirement budget includes:

-Food, utilities, property tax;

-Insurance for health, life, home and auto;

-Travel and entertainment;

-Gifts to family; and

-Anything else you have always been saying you would do when you finally quit working.

5. Develop a Retirement Income Plan. This is another place where an independent advisor who is working for your best interest is a real asset. You want to understand how your investments will generate the income you will need over time. Your plan should include:

-A steady stream of income to meet your expected needs;

-A plan to cope with extended low interest rates;

-A plan to cope with periodic stock market pull backs; and

-A plan to continue until both of you reach age 100.

When you want to talk about what YOU need to do to win the retirement game, contact my office at [email protected].


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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