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Tools You Can Use to Plan for Retirement

Planning for retirement isn’t something you do overnight. It takes years to prepare fully for retirement, both financially and mentally. As a result, it’s always important to have a clear roadmap you can follow for the best retirement package. One thing most people usually get wrong is the timing to start planning for retirement. However, it’s never too early to plan for your retirement. While this task may seem daunting, you must also ensure you have enough savings set aside for your golden years.

Preparing for retirement is something most Americans struggle with, especially those who don’t have the knowledge to do so. If this is you, these important steps should enable you to start preparing for retirement now.

Identify Your Retirement Goals & Assess Your Income.
One of the biggest worries most retirees face is whether they’ll have enough saved to live on during their golden years. But this isn’t always a difficult process. You will simply have to calculate the total amount of cash you’ll receive in the form of pensions, social security, and retirement withdrawals. Add this to the total amount of cash you will have stashed away by the time you retire.

In addition to tallying your retirement income, it’s also essential that you list all your retirement goals and work to meet them. Identifying your goals early should help you determine your total income and how it can fulfill your other objectives. With a handle of your retirement goals and full retirement income, you should know if your savings are enough to meet your retirement dreams and make them a reality.

Understand your Time Horizon
This is the period between your current age and your expected retirement age. This time should map the initial groundwork for you to execute an effective retirement strategy. The longer the time you have between right now the date of your retirement, the more time you will have to craft an effective retirement plan and develop a strong portfolio for your golden days.

If you are young and have thirty or so years until retirement, you will have more leeway to place most of your assets in riskier investments. And although you will deal with a lot of volatility, stocks have been known to outperform other securities like bonds, over long periods. The kicker here is the word “long,” meaning at least ten years’ worth of investment.

Additionally, you must understand all returns that outpace inflation to help you maintain your purchasing power during and after retirement. Think of inflation like an acorn. It will start out small. However, given enough time, it will turn into a massive oak tree. In truth, everyone always wants compound growth on their investments.

Get A Pay Raise
According to a Robert Half Study, only about 39% of employees negotiate for higher salaries. Asking for a pay raise could help you earn an extra $7,500 annually. Unfortunately, most people fear asking for a pay raise, thinking that their employers might not take too kindly to their requests.

Imagine you are 25 and receive a $7,5oo pay raise. Let’s assume that your salary remains the same up to the point you retire. If that’s the case, you could earn an extra $300,000 some 15 years down the line. Moreover, you find that most companies base their raises and bonuses on a worker’s salary.

Generally, you shouldn’t be scared to ask for a pay increment. After all, the odds are always in your favor. Studies show that over 4/5 of employees who always ask for a pay raise always get them, although 33% always receive less than they request. The trick here is to learn how to negotiate with your employer for a higher salary. It’s one of the most valuable techniques you can have as an employee. After all, the worst possible answer you’ll receive is a “no” from your manager.

Track Your Spending
One of the best ways to start saving is to track your spending and compare your income to your savings. Essentially, you want to track your savings and note how much of your income you spend on any unnecessary purchases. From here, you will know what you can cut back on to save more. Preparing for retirement relies more on how disciplined you are with regards to tracking your spending and the amount you can save from it.

Fortunately, there are several online applications that you can use tot racking your overall spending. Apps like “Spending Tracker” are excellent for manually tracking every dollar that enters and leaves your account. You only need to be disciplined enough to track and record every single penny you receive and use.

Take Full Advantage of Retirement Accounts.
Whenever possible, you should also strive to increase your retirement contributions up to the maximum limit allowed by your 410(k), IRA, and any other financial tools or retirement plans you intend to use. It’s always advisable that you aim to put as much as possible into your 401(k) so you can qualify for any maximum matching contributions your employer may offer. Therefore, by the time you reach your 50s or older, the rules for catch-up contributions will let you set aside even more for your retirement.

It may also be best to consider account consolidation to help simplify your investment management as you grow older and near your retirement. This will help to provide you with a much clearer picture of what your total retirement assets are and how much they value. You may also need to consider combining similar IRAs with one institution and review any 401(k) accounts you still have with your former employees. Basically, there are several steps to cover here, and you might need to have a professional help you with the documentation.

Institutions with Retirement Planning Tools You Can Use
Some of the most reputable institutions with the financial tools you can use include:
Fidelity – this institution receives high remarks for its range of financial products and other options you can use. It has a long history of service and doesn’t have opening fees, a minimum balance, or annual costs to open an account. It’s one of the most trusted institutions to consider using for your IRAs.

Merrill Lynch – this financial institution appeals to most casual traders with its combination of competitive pricing and robust research, Merrill Lynch is another great financial institution to consider using. It also has unlimited free trades on ETFs and stocks, which makes it a favorite among most customers.

TD Ameritrade – many other institutions use TD Ameritrade for their customers’ IRAs and like the provider for its track record of excellent customer service. Opening a TD Ameritrade account also takes a little as 15 minutes, which is something most clients appreciate. It also doesn’t have any hidden charges attached to its clients’ investments.

SoFI – SoFI is another online brokerage that makes IRA investing very simple. It may not offer as many features as most of the other larger competitors, but you can find everything you need using this financial institution. SoFI is known for helping several customers manage their traditional IRA or have the institution manage them on their behalf. Either case, you won’t face any recurring account fees.

Diversify and Invest for Growth
While it’s always tempting (even easy) to shy away from stocks to minimize risk, the growth that these types of investments provide is always very important. However, you may need to consider maintaining a mix of stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and other assets that fit your, liquidity needs, risk tolerance, and investment time horizon.

As a result, it’s always important that you examine your income sources in advance before you retire. This should give you more time to adjust any plans you have if need be.

Having a well-balanced portfolio should help you to weather any downturns and possibly generate the income you need to cover any expenses you may incur during retirement. The Merrill Edge Asser Allocator is an especially effective financial tool to use in this regard. Remember, it’s important that your portfolio is always in line with all your investment objectives and meet all your retirement needs. One thing you must note is that diversification doesn’t entirely protect you against loss, especially in declining markets.

Downsize
Most people downplay this critical factor, but it’s also just as effective as cutting back on your overall spending and saving more. Therefore, if you live in a very large home and have space you don’t need, you may need to consider downsizing to a smaller home when you retire. This can be very cost-effective, especially if you live by yourself. The cost of living in your current location may be much higher compared to the cost of living in other places around the state or county.

It may actually make more sense to live in a different state or city or swap your large home for a smaller one. This is one of the most effective cost-cutting measures for retirement you can use.

Start Paying Off Your Debts.
Debt has become a major problem for most senior people, especially during and after retirement. More people retire with more debt than ever before. Debt payment is usually a huge burden for employees on a fixed income. The last thing anyone needs is to spend their withdrawals or Social Security money from their retirement accounts on paying off credit cards and other loans.

Sure, if you are unemployed at the moment, you may not consider debt payment a priority. However, if you have a job or your unemployment benefits equal the salary you made while working, this may be the best time to start paying off your debts. The current low interest rates also mean you can refinance your high-interest debts at a much lower rate, making repayments easier.

Start paying off your debt easier, so you don’t have to later towards or after your retirement. It becomes a lot harder then.

Determine Your Retirement Spending Needs
It’s not unusual you start planning for your post-retirement needs right now. In fact, it may actually work in your favor as you will know exactly how much you should invest or save to meet your post-retirement spending needs.

Therefore, having realistic expectations about your spending habits post-retirement should help you to define the best size of your retirement portfolio to work towards. After they retire, most people believe that their annual spending amounts to only 70% of what they spent previously. This is far from true, and one of the most unrealistic assumptions you can ever make, especially if you haven’t finished paying your mortgage or some unforeseen medical expenses occur.

It’s not uncommon for new retirees to spend their first few years splurging on tours and travels or other bucket-list goals. But the best way to ensure you meet all these goals without running bankrupt at the end of the day is to start planning early.

Invest in a Good Financial Advisor
Another critical step to take now is to search for the right financial advisor to help you manage your money. You want someone who can provide you with the financial guidance you need to make the best personal finance decisions. Institutions like Smart Asset play a critical role in designing a financial plan to help you even post-retirement. You can also always seek advice from your family members and close friends on the best financial strategies to take now to help you create a stronger portfolio for your golden years.

The Bottom Line
An important fact to always have with you is to work hard now so you can relax later. After all, nobody is looking forward to reaching their sixties with nothing in their bank accounts to show for the several years of hard work and labor they invested in work. You will end up regretting every single penny you spent on unnecessary things when you could have invested or saved that money.

Take care of your financial situation today, before it gets to a point where you can’t make much of a difference. And you can do this by carefully analyzing your spending and determining where you should cut back on. After all, the only way you will save more is by making painful sacrifices so your future self can reap the fruits.

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