Here are five common retirement planning mistakes and steps you can take to avoid them.
1. Not having a plan
Surprisingly, most do not know how much money is needed for retirement. A retirement plan should consider how long you expect to live, establish an estimate of the amount of money you will need, and consider your desired lifestyle during retirement. Your plan should have measurable goals that can then be broken down into a reasonable way to reach them.
Action item. If you have a plan, review it for possible revisions. If you do not, consider getting one put together as soon as possible.
2. Not starting early enough
One of the most powerful tools for a well-funded retirement is to start saving for your retirement at an early age. The sooner you start saving the better off you will be.
Action item. Open a retirement account and start saving now. Increase the percent of your pay that you place in tax-advantaged retirement saving accounts. This includes IRAs, 401(k)s, and other plans.
3. Not maximizing employer contributions
Many employers have plans available to help their employees save for retirement. If your company has a pension plan, understand how it works and how much you can expect to receive upon retirement. If your company has a retirement plan contribution-matching program, take full advantage of this free money by making minimum contributions required to receive this employer match.
Action item. Review your employer-provided retirement saving options. Maximize the benefits they are providing.
4. Taking the all or nothing approach
Do you plan on working during retirement or avoiding work at all costs? Do you plan on having a pension or Social Security covering all your retirement needs or none of it? Too often retirees plan the extremes, but reality is something in between. For example, if you are someone who plans to have your pension plan fail and Social Security go broke, you may be taking too conservative an approach.
Action item. Create a range of retirement funding scenarios, not just the worst case or best-case scenario. Consider no work or part-time work. Consider some contribution from Social Security and potential pension income if your employer has a program.
5. Not understanding the true nature of your retirement
Are you being realistic in your future retirement plans? Have you correctly estimated the cost of health insurance? Have you really thought about the impact of relocating to a warmer climate? How important is living close to family and friends? Will you really downsize your home after the kids leave?
Action item. If you have a retirement plan that includes relocating or traveling to far off places, consider test-driving this idea before you implement it. You may be surprised at the result.
Retirement should be something to look forward to, and with a little planning it can be a reality for most of us.