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When Should I Start Thinking About Retirement Options?

by Caldwell Trust

Retirement: for most Americans, the word evokes mixed feelings. On the one hand, retirement represents a time when you can do all the things you always wanted to do without the workaday hassles of your previous life—no more worrying about office politics or frantic commutes. On the other hand, "retirement" means anxiety about money.


Related Blog: Frequently Asked Questions About Retirement Planning


Consider these head-turning stats, for example:

  • Fully 1/3 of Americans haven't saved anything for retirement
  • About 1 of every 3 homeowners of retirement age still have mortgage debt
  • More than half of Americans say they "lose sleep" because of retirement concerns
  • More than 75% of Baby Boomers fear they haven't saved enough for retirement


So, What's the Best Way to Plan for Retirement?

Everyone's circumstance is different as you plan your immediate and future finances, and only you can decide the best moves for you. In general, however, you'll be more secure—and less concerned—if you follow the following 4 steps:


Start Saving as Early as Possible

Obviously, the earlier you start saving, the more money you'll have when you retire. It's not just that you'll be putting aside money for a longer time—equally important, the money you save will have more time to accrue interest.


For example, if you set aside $3,000 a year for 10 years starting at the age of 25 (until the age of 35, in other words), that $30,000 will be worth $338,000 when you reach retirement age (based on a 7% annual return). If you put aside $3,000 a year from age 35 to age 65, the $90,000 you saved will be worth $303,000 when you retire. Starting your retirement savings as early as possible just makes good financial sense.


Plan to Work Until You Reach "Full Retirement Age"

Many people want to retire as soon as they're eligible—at age 62. However, doing so means seeing a significant drop in the amount of monthly social security benefits you'll receive. Retiring at 62 vs. "full retirement age" (between 66 and 67 depending on the year you were born) will reduce your benefits on average by 20%. In other words, if you were eligible to receive $2,000 at full retirement age, you would receive just $1,600 a month retiring at age 62.


It's understandable that you might want to enjoy your retirement as soon as possible. However, you need to understand the financial implications of that decision and ensure that you will have all the money you need when you retire.


If Possible, Put Your Money in an IRA or 401(k)

The reason for the popularity of plans like 401(k's) and individual retirement accounts (IRA's) is that they allow you to defer paying taxes until the time you withdraw your money once you retire. You might think, "What's the difference? I'll still have to pay taxes." That's true, but not paying taxes until your retirement means there will be more money in your IRA or 401(k) to earn interest, so your total savings when you reach retirement will be substantially greater.


Shift Your Portfolio Strategy as You Get Older

Putting a larger percentage of your retirement savings into stocks (vs. bonds) can be risky—but the younger you are, the more you can afford to take that risk. As you get older, you'll want to gradually move the money you have in stocks into bonds (you should of course get the advice of a competent financial counselor before making these decisions).

As CNN Money points out:


"The stock market returned 10.02% a year on average between 1926 and 2015, versus just 5.58% for bonds, according to research firm Morningstar. Given stocks' superior returns over the long haul, most financial advisers recommend that investors whose retirement is more than 20 years away hold at least 3/4 of their portfolios in stocks and stock funds."

Only You Can Decide What's Best for You

How much money you'll need in retirement is a decision only you can make. In general, you'll want to have about 70% of your salary when you retire, but it all depends on what you want to do. For example, if you plan to travel, or go back to school or move into a bigger house, you're going to need more.


Retirement planning, admittedly, can be confusing. At Caldwell Trust, we understand this and are here to help you. To learn more about the ways our investment management, trusts and estates and retirement planning services can help you make these difficult decisions, contact us today.


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