Six Decisions That Could Affect Your Future Retirement Plans
Experts say these are some of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to later life-planning.
Although the amount of money you'll need for your golden years depends on your current income, retirement lifestyle, and health care costs, experts say you can generally expect to spend between 55 to 80 percent of your annual income every year throughout retirement. The problem? Across the board, Americans are under-saving for their retirement, according to PwC's Retirement in America report. Experts say the median retirement savings account for those approaching retirement (ages 55 to 64) has approximately $120,000 in it. Do the math: That would provide less than $1,000 per month over a 15-year time span. What's maybe even more alarming? One in four Americans don't have any retirement savings at all.
The bottom line: Saving for retirement may feel like a tough task, but it's one that's absolutely vital to your well-being later. To make sure you're making sound decisions about your money, we asked financial experts to share the biggest mistakes people make when saving for retirement. Here's what they had to say.
"The best time to start saving for retirement, if you can, is now," says Colleen McCreary, chief people officer for Credit Karma. But planning your financial future can undoubtedly feel daunting. And when you couple that with the feeling that retirement is an abstract future event, people tend to choose avoidance. That's the worst thing you can do, though. "Instead of looking at saving for retirement as an intimidating task, look at it as an opportunity to set your future self up for success by giving yourself that financial cushion," says McCreary.
That leads to the next point: You don't have to contribute a lot to take action. "Contributing something, even if it seems small, is better than contributing nothing," says McCreary. "If all you can afford to save right now is $100 per month, rest assured that $100 can still go a long way, as it can earn interest over time."
And you can always increase your contribution. Once you have a short term plan for how to start contributing, look toward the future, and set a goal to increase your retirement contributions by one to two percent per year, says McCreary. This way, you're starting off with something you know you can afford, while slowly increasing that number over time.
Not saving enough.
That said, you eventually need to save enough money to maintain your lifestyle once you do finally retire. "While there is no exact dollar amount you should save for retirement, a good rule of thumb is to start by putting at least 10 to 15 percent of your income into a retirement fund, if you can swing it."
To increase contributions without the sting of taking more from your checking account, take advantage of any employer matching programs your company may offer. It's essentially free money, says McCreary.
Miscalculating your post-retirement needs.
Similarly, sometimes people calculate their retirement goal from their current day-to-day expenses without considering how their spending may change after they retire, says Dayana Velasco, market director, wealth at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management. You may want to finally buy that summer house or travel the world; there might also be higher medical costs later in life as life expectancy increases. "Consider all of these factors as you outline your retirement plan to ensure you are saving enough to retire comfortably," she explains.
Approaching saving sequentially.
When prioritizing your financial goals, it doesn't necessarily have to be either/or—either paying off student loans, saving to buy your first home, or preparing for retirement, for example, says Velasco. Everyone's situation is different, and you can work with a financial advisor to create separate plans for each goal to ensure you are staying on track with them all, she explains.
Letting setbacks derail you.
If you're still reeling from job loss or an emergency that you had to tap your rainy day fund for, don't let this get you totally off track. "If you're just getting your retirement back on track after a long year of unemployment and other setbacks, don't panic," says McCreary. "Many others just like you are in the same boat." And, as noted previously, even small amounts count in the long run.