Keeping up With The Joneses — Trends in American Retirement Planning and How You Measure Up

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Has the recent economic climate made you nervous about retirement planning? If so, then you are not alone. A recent survey showed that 88% of American workers are worried about a comfortable retirement, an increase from 73% of Americans in 2010. It’s likely that this increase reflects the number of workers who are approaching the end of their careers and are starting to think about their retirement goals.

Have you been saving your whole career, working towards a long term retirement strategy? Or did you start later, hoping that aggressive investing would boost your portfolio? Either way, you’re not alone. Consider these four stats on American’s and retirement. By reflecting on your peers, you can gain new perspective and focus on your own retirement plans.

  • Stat 1: Almost 80% of employers offer access to defined-contribution plans for their full time workers and over 80% of those workers take advantage of these programs.
    Still, there’s no reason that 100% of these workers shouldn’t participate. All Americans, regardless of age, should be actively contributing to their retirement planning. This is especially true if your company has employee stock ownership plans or contributes by matching a percentage of your investment. Think of it as an easy access pay raise that you’ll see as retirement income in your golden years.

  • Stat 2: More than half of American retirees left work while they still had debt to pay off.
    Conservative retirement planning calls for workers to be 100% debt free when they celebrate the end of their careers. One easy way to make sure you’re avoiding running out of money in retirement is to start retirement in complete control of your assets and not beholden to any lender.

    However, there are exceptions to this rule. A mortgage, for instance, may be okay to maintain in retirement, depending on the mortgage and your assets. If you have debt and are thinking of retiring, it might be a good idea to talk to a financial advisor about retirement planning and debt management first.

  • Stat 3: Even in “retirement,” 74% of Americans expect that they’ll need to work.

    Of course it’s one thing if you’re working out of passion or moving on to a second, dream career, but most workers want the freedom to retire fully and the peace of mind that a solid portfolio offers. One way Americans can help insure that their post-retirement careers are of their own choosing is through independent investment.
    In addition to employer plans and 401(K)s, creating a personal stock portfolio can help you boost your retirement planning. The general wisdom suggests that you invest more aggressively when you’re younger and then slowly start to move your money to more stable investments as you near retirement. An investment advisor can help oversee your portfolio management so that you don’t have to guess at the right mix for your money.

  • Stat 4: By 2030, 18% of Americans will be 65 years or older. Right now, that demographic is only 13% of the population.
    The health care and social welfare systems are already feeling the strain of the baby boomers and it’s unlikely that the pressure will let up. Any personal investing or retirement planning will only help ensure that you aren’t reliant on these systems.

Smart retirement planning will look different from person to person based on the standard of living each chooses to keep up. Regardless of whether you’ve built retirement planning strategies into every financial decision you’ve made throughout your career, or if you’re just starting to think about retirement goals now, it’s helpful to consider what precautions others are taking and what’s available to you as an individual and an employee.

Make sure you’re taking advantage of any employer sponsored retirement planning. Consider increasing your contribution each year. Look closely at your debt and aim for debt free or good debt as you enter your golden years. Finally, consider investing and shifting your portfolio over time in order to boost your retirement income. Even a little retirement planning and investment management can go a long way to help you reach your retirement goals.

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