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How Much You Really Should Be Saving For Retirement, Part 1

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at May 21st, 2018

Do you know just how much you really should be saving for retirement? Do you have a retirement action plan? Or are you hoping it’s all going to somehow work out?

Ready or not, your retirement is coming! Far too many of us coast along, believing that everything is just great until suddenly … it’s not.

Or we are young, fresh out of college or just getting into the work force (or both), and retirement seems so far away that it can be put off for another day.

And then that ‘other day’ turns into a decade.

For retirement planning, as for all investing, the earlier you start, the more you will end up with later. Fortunately, NPR has created a good retirement action plan form, which you can use to get started.

Information Gathering

Make sure to get all of the facts before you start to invest your money anywhere. There are any numbers of investments which may come with a higher degree of risk than makes you comfortable. And with some of them, you can even potentially lose your principle. Still others might not have the return level that you are looking for.

Therefore, it is good to start by talking to both the Human Resources department at your office and also a financial planner or a lawyer, possibly both.

Here are some questions for you to ask Human Resources:

  • Are my retirement contributions matched by my employer?
  • If so, by how much?
  • What is the maximum amount I am allowed to legal contribute at my age?
  • What will my contribution amount look like in my payroll deductions?

Here are some questions for you to ask a lawyer or a financial planner:

  • How much money will I need to retire?
  • The following major illnesses run in my family; should I be setting aside more to cover possible catastrophic medical costs?
  • I have a child or other close relative with disabilities (if applicable) and I want to assure that they are provided for. How can I set aside funds for their care and well-being without sacrificing my own retirement?
  • What makes the most sense financially when I retire, when it comes to my house, which I will (maybe) own free and clear by then?

Social Security’s Contribution

No matter what, you will need to take this money into consideration, so head on over to Social Security’s retirement estimator. No matter how young you are, Social Security can give you a rough estimate on how much they will pay you, depending upon which age you retire at (see more about your target date, below). Note: Social Security cautions:

  • “Your earnings may increase or decrease in the future.
  • After you start receiving benefits, they will be adjusted for cost-of-living increases.
  • Your estimated benefits are based on current law. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits.
  • Your benefit amount may be affected by military service, railroad employment or pensions earned through work on which you did not pay Social Security tax.”

Hence the further you are away from retirement, the more of an estimate these figures are going to be. But they should give you a rough idea of what you need to be saving. Social Security should dovetail with retirement savings, not replace it.

In Part 2, we will get into just how much you are really going to need. Hint: it’s going to be a lot. Share this and tell your friends what you think of how to live your best financial life.

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