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We suck at saving for retirement. The average 50 year old has $43,797 saved for retirement. I hate to break it to you, but that is just not going to cut it. The fact is that most of us have a hard time saving for retirement. Because of this, we need to figure out a plan for retirement savings success.
If we can figure out a way to save for retirement, then we can actually retire. We will also be happy because we will have enough money so that we are not stressed all the time. Luckily, there is a plan for retirement savings success already outlined. I found it at SmartMoney.
The 3 steps outlined in the article are:
- Employing a consistent, long-term savings and investing strategy
- Working with a financial adviser
- Saving money in your workplace retirement plan
Table of Contents
Your Plan For Retirement Savings Success
These 3 points are basic, but it is incredible how many people fail to do them. Let’s look at each one so we can understand their importance and determine if you need to follow each step or not.
Step #1: Employing A Consistent Long Term Savings And Investment Strategy
This point is key. It is so important, it should be highlighted, underlined, starred and in bold font. If you save or invest nothing, how will you ever retire? Do you think money will magically show up under your pillow like it did when you were a kid and you placed a tooth under it?
The reality is that you have to save and invest if you want to retire one day. But so many people don’t. Why?
Let’s look into the mind of a typical person. They say to themselves, “I should start saving for retirement.” Then a commercial comes on TV for the new iPhone and drooling ensues. By the time the commercial is over, they say to themselves, “what was I going to do again? Nevermind, that new iPhone looks sweet!”
I’m not trying to pick on people, I’m even guilty of this. But we have a short attention span. Plus companies spend millions every year to better understand how we think and react. They then use this against us so we fulfill a short-term need instead of a long-term need.
If the above example doesn’t describe you, then maybe this one does.
Here is how many people think when they think of saving for retirement. They say, why should I save a bunch of money when I might not even be around to enjoy it? YOLO people. YOLO.
In either of the examples there is one thing true about both of them. We are not good at conceptualizing the long-term. So, to save for retirement, we need to re-wire our brains. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt.
The Trick To Get You To Save For Retirement
To re-wire our brain, we have to link retirement with something. Take out a pen and paper. Or open your note app on your smartphone. Start thinking about and writing down what you want out of retirement. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Play golf every week
- Have a beach house
- Drink pina coladas on the beach all day long
- Spoil your grand kids
- Pay for you, your kids and grand kids to go away on an amazing vacation every year
- Buy an NBA franchise
Just think what you want to do. What are your dreams and desires?
Once you have them written down, you need to figure out a way to remember them. Here are a few ideas for that:
- Set up a reminder every week in your smartphone
- Put a note with them in your wallet so you see it when you buy something
- Send yourself an email using Future Me
- Set up a recurring reminder in your email
The key is to keep your dreams and desires in the front of your mind.
How does this work? It gets us thinking about retirement in a different way. Most people see saving for retirement as a waste because they may not be around to enjoy it. Others look at saving for retirement as giving up on having fun today.
Both of these are negative thinking. We should see goals as something that will bring happiness when we achieve them. This puts retirement in a positive light. It becomes something we look forward to reaching and attaining.
But you have to keep the dreams in front of your mind, in front of your face. The more you see and remind yourself of them, the more likely you will make smarter spending choices. And the more likely you will be to fund an IRA or increase the amount you are saving for retirement.
That’s it. Take 10 minutes. Figure out your dreams and another 5 minutes to set up a system so you are reminded of them. Then you can go back to doing whatever it is you do for fun and relaxation. Can you sacrifice 15 minutes of your life to reach your dreams for retirement?
Do you need to follow this step? A thousand times, YES!
Step #2: Working With A Professional
Working with a professional is a good idea for a lot people, especially when it comes to retirement savings. Even though investing sounds complicated, it is quite basic. The problem is that everyone has an opinion and this creates a lot of confusion.
Everywhere you turn, someone else has a different take on things. If you are able to look at the long term and keep your emotions in check, hiring a financial planner might not make sense for you.
But, when it comes to planning for retirement, you might be well served by a financial planner.
This is because a financial planner looks at all the pieces of your financial life. An investment plan and investing is just one piece of your financial puzzle.
The other areas include insurance, estate planning and taxes. A good financial planner will look at all these puzzle pieces. They will work with you to make sure you are in the best financial shape possible.
When I worked for a high net worth financial planner, we dealt with these issues on a daily basis. It boggled my mind how many high net worth people had almost zero insurance coverage. We live in a litigious world. You are asking for trouble by not carrying the right amounts of insurance.
Another benefit of a planner is they help you be successful when investing. They do this by helping you to keep your emotions in check. The media likes to play with our emotions to breed fear. Once fear sets in, we irrationally buy and sell investments at the wrong time.
A planner helps you to avoid this. They are your voice of reason (assuming you find a credible one). They will help you to stay invested for the long term, which is a key to investment success.
Do you need to follow this step? It depends. For most people, the answer is yes. Having someone to hold their hand along the way and look at their entire financial life is priceless.
For example, at the planning firm where I worked, we had a client tell us something interesting. Over the course of our relationship, he had paid us over $10,000 to manage his financial life. To many reading this, that sounds like a lot.
But he told us he would have paid 5 times this amount knowing where he stands now. With the turbulence of the market over the past 20 years, he said he never would be where he is today without our help. He would have moved to all cash a long time ago and have a lot less money today. But we held his hand and worked through the market crashes together.
I know the upfront cost of a planner sounds like a lot of money. But you also have to take into account what you are getting for that cost. The ability to retire on your terms and not have to worry about money?
If so, the fee is more than worth cost.
But for some readers, you might be able to skip the planner step. There are a lot of tools and services out there that will help you with your planning. For example, there is Personal Capital.
With this free tool, you see how much your investments are costing you. You also see if you are investing based on your risk tolerance.
And the best part, they will assess your chance of retirement success with their planning tools.
I have a free account that offers this tool and it is identical what we used at the planning firm I worked for.
If you are on the fence about whether you should seek out a financial planner, but are also unsure if you want to handle things yourself, you have another option. You could pay a planner a one-time fee to develop a plan to see where you fall short and then take it from there.
Step #3: Saving In Your Workplace Retirement Plan
When it comes to saving for retirement, most people start with the 401k offered by their employer. In years past, it was up to you to decide how much you wanted to save. Thanks to new regulations, many employers auto-enroll new employees into the company 401k plan. Most plan start employees with a salary contribution of 3%.
Unfortunately, that is the end of the road. If you want to save more, you have to elect to do so.
Saving money in your retirement plan at work is a no-brainer for two reasons:
- First, many employees get a match up to a certain point, which equates to free money. Why people turn down free money is absurd to me. The employer is telling you, “hey, if you save $100 from your paycheck, I’ll give you another $10. No strings attached.” Why wouldn’t you do this?
- Second, you get a tax break. We all hate paying taxes. This is the easiest way to get out of paying them. For every dollar you contribute, you save a percentage of that on your taxes. Again, you are coming out ahead by saving money!
Even if your employer doesn’t offer a match, you still reduce your taxes when you contribute to your 401k. I don’t even care if you are in debt and are trying to dig out. You should still be saving money in your retirement plan at work.
Do you need to follow this step? Yes! Saving in your 401k plan at work is automating your investing. Automating works for saving money and it also works for investing too. The sooner you take advantage of this benefit, the more likely you will be to retire one day.
The only catch is saving enough. Saving 3% is a good start, but you need to bump this number up to 10% or more.
Luckily, you don’t have to do it all at once. You could increase the amount you save each year by 1% until you hit 10%.
For me, I would rather just save 10% from the start. That way, I am saving a good amount for retirement and I am getting accustomed to living on a certain amount.
In the end, retirement savings success is possible when you break it down into pieces. Start off with a well defined vision of what you want retirement to look like. Then create a plan that helps you progress towards that vision.
From there, decide if you need your hand held with regards to your financial life. If you do, then find a financial planner that is the right fit for you.
Or if you think you can do it yourself, skip a hiring a financial planner. Just make sure you follow through with keeping your finances current.
Finally, take advantage of tax deferred saving plans in the form of a 401k plan at work or even through IRAs. The more you can save, the better off you will be.
If you can do these 3 things, you will be well on your way to achieving retirement savings success. And for those of you that want to retire early, just super-charge these tips for a life of your dreams!
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.