How to Increase Your Retirement Assets in Three Steps

As we presented in the last article, we will focus, in this article, on the simple steps anyone can take to improve their retirement planning strategy. Time is of the essence. If you feel you have not saved well for retirement, by making these three simple steps a habit now, you will reap exponential benefits later.

Step One: Budget

First, review your family budget and immediately reduce the unnecessary cash outflows. These may be subscriptions to magazines never read, automatic renewals for insurance on your vehicles that are costing more than your 10-year old car is worth and those movie channels that are never watched since the kids moved out. Now, I know what you are thinking. “This isn’t that much money each month.” You are correct in the short-term sense; however, if you have more than 5 years until your desired retirement date the sum of funds can amount to a significant support for your future.

Step Two: Maximization

Second, immediately maximize your employer-provided return plan contributions. Remember, if you are age 50 or older, you may contribute an additional $6,000 per year as a “catch-up” for failing to fully fund a 401(k) plan in your younger years. The total for 2019 that you may defer from your salary is $25,000 if you at least age 50. This amount of funding for the next 5 years will add at least $125,000 (not including growth or employer matching) to your retirement funds.

If you are self-employed, review your company’s cash flow and find ways to fully fund a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP). You may contribute up to 25% of your salary or $56,000 whichever is lower for 2019. If you were to establish your budget for accumulating the maximum amount for the next five years, you would contribute an additional $280,000 (not including market returns) for your retirement support.

Step Three: Asset Allocation

Third, review your investment asset allocation. Recent economic data reports the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poors 500 Indices are at record highs. Do not anticipate these returns for your retirement planning. We use a phrase in planning, “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.” Your investment allocation during retirement will most likely be different than your investment strategy for the accumulation phase of your life.

Forget about the past and your lost opportunities. You can only control the present. Start today in making positive decisions and change your future. I purposely used the word “immediately” several times in this column to impart to you the importance of taking action now. By preparing a plan and following the strategy, no matter what anyone else does, you may improve your chances for a happier and better retirement.

Concerned about the adequacy of your assets for retirement? It is time to take action. Seek out the guidance of a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner to gain the strategies needed to live life on your own terms. You will be glad you did.

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Starting Late and Finishing Strong

Too many people give up on their dream retirement simply because they started too late (or so they think). One of the greatest opportunities to change your future to what you wish it to be is … to start today! Often, we experience a client that wishes to retire at age 65 and have saved little. Instead of simply acknowledging their lack of discipline, we provide solutions that will help them realize a better future but requires their participation on a plan that will be effective for them.

Let’s look at the most obvious savings point – employer retirement plans. If you work for an employer that provides a deferred savings plan such as a §401(k) Plan, you are in luck. Meet with your employer or human resource officer and determine when you can begin participating in the plan. If you are already enrolled in the plan but want to make changes to your savings rate (called your “deferral amount”) there are certain windows of time that must be observed.

If you are age 50 or older, you can take advantage of “catch-up” provisions within the law that can significantly reduce your current taxes and increase your savings exponentially. For 2019, the “catch-up” contribution amount is $6,000. Think about it. You can save an additional $500 per month on a tax-deferred basis. This will add up to a considerable increase in retirement savings over a ten-year period! If invested prudently, you will experience even greater potential growth until retirement.

The next step is to review your investments within the plan. Are you sufficiently allocated and diversified in your selection of investments? Don’t simply invest in the same manner as other employees. Invest in yourself by spending some quality time to understand the particular options and how you feel if the performance was not as projected. How would your retirement plans be affected if the performance was lacking?

By electing to save your maximum amount to your employer plan, you have essentially placed your goals on auto-pilot. You will automatically be saving money each pay period and it is a little more difficult to obtain the funds if an impulse to buy is experienced. 

Now, the really good news. Your employer-provided plan matches a certain limit of your contributions each year. This is money you will receive in your account that helps you grow your retirement savings. Let’s assume that your employer matches up to 5% of your salary (assuming you defer or invest at least 5% of your salary to the plan) and your total compensation is $60,000 per year. This means your employer will contribute $3,000 (or $250 per month) to your retirement account each year. If you work at least ten years you will have gained another $30,000 plus potential growth for retirement support!

If you are self-employed, you have a number of options that will benefit you if you started late saving for retirement. We will discuss these options in the next article.

Now, take the initiative today to set your course for retirement to be your best years ever! If you have questions about your employer’s plan account, retirement strategies or the tax impact on your cash flow to and through retirement, contact a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner to construct a retirement plan that works for you. Until next time…

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