Save for retirement – 52 weeks a year

Published 2:58 pm Friday, October 17, 2008

The U.S. Congress has declared Oct. 19-25 as National Save for Retirement Week.

Why are our lawmakers so concerned about Americans’ retirement savings? And are you doing everything you can to build sufficient resources to enjoy the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned?

In regard to the first question, it appears that Congress does have good reason to be worried about our ability to save for retirement. It isn’t that we never think of it. In fact, 72 percent of workers say they and/or their spouses have saved for retirement, according to the 2008 Retirement Confidence Survey issued by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

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Of course, that still means that 28 percent of workers aren’t saving for retirement.

But these other statistics, taken from the same survey, are even more sobering:

• Forty-nine percent of workers report less than $25,000 in total savings and investments, excluding their home and defined benefit (pension) plans;

• Just 47 percent of workers and/or their spouses have calculated how much money they will need for retirement.

Clearly, as a nation, we need to do a better job of saving for retirement. As an individual, what can you do?

Consider these suggestions:

• Calculate the amount of income you’ll need during retirement. The income you’ll need during retirement depends on your projected lifestyle. If, for example, you plan to retire early and travel continually, you’ll likely need to save more than your neighbor, who wants to stay close to home and open a small business. So, map out your retirement and try to come up with a “price tag” for it. You may want to work with a professional financial adviser, who has the tools and experience to help you develop these calculations.

• Take full advantage of your retirement savings plans. Put in as much as you can afford to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan—and every time you get a raise, increase your contributions. Also, even if you have a 401(k), you’re probably still eligible to contribute to an IRA, another excellent tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicle. If you ever get to the point where you are “maxing out” on your both your 401(k) and IRA, you may want to look at other tax-advantaged investments, such as fixed annuities.

• Don’t shortchange your retirement to help pay for college. If you have children, you may want to help them pay for college, which has gotten increasingly expensive over the past several years. But if you decide to assist them by tapping into your retirement accounts—for example, by taking a loan against your 401(k)—you could seriously set back your progress toward your retirement savings goals. Instead of raiding your 401(k), consider establishing a tax-advantaged college savings account, such as a Section 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account.

National Save for Retirement Week will come and go. But if you can use this event as a motivational tool to help yourself develop some solid retirement savings strategies, it will be a week worth remembering.

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