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All-Ages Retirement Guide

There comes a point in everyone's life when we no longer want to work or may not be physically able to continue working. Retirement kicks in for most people at around 65 years of age, when they cease working and live off of money saved up during their lifetime. Unfortunately, what should be a time of rest and relaxation is frequently marred by the fears that the money saved won't be enough to last. Retiring well means a careful investment plan and serious commitment to following it. The good news is that no matter what age you are, a comfortable retirement is within reach as long as you make smart financial decisions.

Teens and Young Adults

Retirement is usually the last thing on a teenager's list of things to worry about. It may seem more important to save for things like a new car or a college education. But teenagers and young adults who begin saving early have the best chance of retiring without the fear of looming debt or bankruptcy. All it takes are a few basic investment decisions.

  • Saving in Your Teens Leads to Big Cash: There aren't many teenagers who actively think about retirement. However, by planning and investing early, having a generous nest egg for retirement is a very realistic goal.
  • Investing Truths (PDF): Investing your money can be an excellent way to increase your overall portfolio. These three basic truths about investing can help point you in the right direction.
  • Financial Security for Youth: Current Trend (PDF): Only 21% of teenagers have ever taken a course on financial management, but 66% acknowledge that it's important to know about money and saving for retirement. The good news is that more and more schools are integrating financial planning into the school curriculum; the trick is to know to look for it.
  • Reality Check: Are you financially prepared to live the life that you want to? Take this quick and easy quiz for a reality check.

Post-High School/College

The time after high school and college is when the bulk of retirement savings should be put away. This can be tricky to manage, since this is also the time when people invest in a house and a family. Putting away even a small portion of each paycheck will help build your retirement savings, as will investing your money. This is also the time to check the retirement and pension plans offered by most employers. Don't forget to factor in those contributions to your retirement estimate!

  • Ballpark Estimate: Do you know how much you need to save for retirement? This online calculator can tell you the exact percentage of each paycheck you should be putting away.
  • What College Students Should Know About Retirement: Successfully managing money isn't always an intuitive thing. Read up on these tips for smart saving provided by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Guide to College Savings Plans: The earlier you can begin saving money for retirement, the larger your retirement fund will be. This guide from CNN has some excellent tips on how to save more money, even during college.
  • 10 Financial Commandments for Your 30s: The time before retirement should be spent increasing your wealth and maintaining it safely. These ten guidelines will make money management much easier as you age.

Middle-Aged

At this point, many couples will find themselves facing the difficult decision of how much money to allocate toward their children's educational expenses. It may be tempting to dip into your retirement funds to pay for college, but this can leave couples in an unexpected lurch when they retire. Try to avoid withdrawing from your retirement savings; focus instead on smart investing. This is also the time to reduce any debt as much as possible and work to maximize tax breaks, which can be deposited right into your retirement account.

  • Save for Retirement Now, Get College Aid Later: Many parents want to make sure that their children will have enough money to go to college. It can actually be more beneficial to put that money toward your retirement first.
  • 40-Plus? It's Not Too Late to Start Saving: You don't have to start investing in high school to be able to retire comfortably. It is important that you use the life experience you have so far to your benefit, and if you haven't already, start researching how to plan for retirement.
  • Your 40s: Time to Shift into High Gear: If you started saving for retirement years ago, this is the time to boost those funds as much as possible. Time magazine has some excellent tips on how to increase your savings.

Nearing Retirement

By this point in life, your retirement fund should be fairly well-stocked. If you haven't put anything away yet, don't panic: A comfortable retirement account can still be achieved. This will, however, require some changes to your spending habits, such as dining out less frequently and driving a used car. Some people may even want to consider downsizing to a smaller home. It is also important to look into the retirement plans, such as a 401(k), provided by your employer. With a little bit of thrift and research, you'll be well on your way to a comfortable retirement in just a few short years.

  • What Older Adults Need to Know About Money (PDF): As adults approach 50 years of age, they often find themselves confronted with pressing financial issues. This pamphlet addresses some of the most common financial concerns and offers advice on how to make fiscal decisions.
  • In Your 50s: Financial Strategies: Approaching the age of retirement can be thrilling or terrifying depending on your finances at the time. Canadian Living has a helpful article on goals you should pursue in your 50s, from buying a second property to paying off the mortgage.
  • Are You Sleepwalking into Retirement? Not saving for retirement is a common mistake people make. Regardless of the size of your retirement fund, there are ways to help make it grow, even if you're a few years away from retirement.
  • Late-Stage Financial Planning: What You Need to Know: You can save enough for a comfortable retirement in only 15 years. You'll need to know a few tips and tricks to help you along, and this article has plenty of them. There are even a few household examples to give you an idea of what you should be focusing on with regard to your finances.

Resources

  • My Money Five: When it comes to managing your money and planning for retirement, there are five key principles to understand. MyMoney.gov explains each one in detail and offers hints and tips for successfully utilizing all five.
  • Social Security Quick Calculator: Social security can help supplement your retirement, but it shouldn't be relied upon entirely. Use this calculator to figure out what you can expect from your Social Security benefits.
  • Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement: If you're looking for a quick introduction to financial planning, this is the article for you. The Department of Labor lists the top ten ways to prepare for your retirement here.
  • Retirement Plan Basics: This article addresses women in particular, but the advice it provides is applicable to everyone. It includes questions to ask yourself, your spouse, and your employer.
  • Planning Your Retirement: Many people tend to have a good idea of the quality of life they'd like to enjoy during retirement but are unsure exactly how much they'll need to save for that dream. There are a few key steps to follow, and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada outlines those steps here.
  • Preparing for Retirement (PDF): When planning for your retirement, you'll need to think about more than just money. You'll need to consider what you want to do during your retirement, what you enjoy, and whether you'd like to completely retire or not. This booklet will walk you through the basic steps of planning for retirement and will coach you through the questions that you need to ask.
  • Using Your House for Income in Retirement (PDF): A house, especially if owned outright, can be a great source of income in retirement. This planning guide will help explain how a house can be utilized and the pros and cons of each scenario.
  • Plan for Retirement on a Low Income: Retiring comfortably doesn't mean you need a job with a six-figure salary. It's as easy as being mindful of what you have and making smart money decisions.
  • The Best Places to Save for Retirement: Retirement money doesn't go into only one bank account. It's usually spread across several different accounts, and this guide will help you understand what makes each one a good way to save.
  • Education Trumps Retirement Savings for Single Parents: Planning for retirement can be difficult for people who are single, especially when they're also trying to pay for college for their children. A USA Today article warns single parents against spending on their children's education instead of securing their own future.
  • The Truth About Early Retirement: Retiring early is a very real possibility, but it takes some planning and innovation. Discover the secrets to an early retirement with this page from Reader's Digest.
  • A Life of No Work: Can You Afford Early Retirement? Even with no children and a healthy nest egg of almost a million dollars, couples may need to tone down their goals for retirement if they want the money to last. In this article, the retirement plans of a couple who cease work at 50 are examined and cross-examined, revealing some troubling numbers.
  • Projected Retirement Spending Plan (PDF): It's good to know your current financial situation, but knowing how much you'll spend during retirement itself can be just as helpful. Use this worksheet to figure out your retirement expenses and pull together all of your assets on one piece of paper.
  • Retirement Readiness Worksheet: A good retirement, like a good vacation, takes some planning. This Retirement Readiness Worksheet will factor in your current finances and expectations for retirement to give you a better idea of what needs to be done in the future.
  • What's Driving Americans to Retire Abroad? Thanks to rising costs of living and a dwindling supply of funds for Social Security payments, many older people are finding it impossible to stay in their home country for retirement. An article from the University of Pennsylvania explains the trend in more detail.
  • Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement (PDF): In a 2006 study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College, it was revealed that only half of participants older than 50 could correctly answer two basic investment questions. Take a look at financial literacy and what it means in regards to retirement.
  • Save Now for Retirement (PDF): When planning for retirement, individuals look for support from personal savings, Social Security, and employer-supplied retirement plans. However, the last two are becoming increasingly unstable, as Social Security payouts drop and employers risk bankruptcy. It is therefore critical that individuals have enough in their personal savings and assets to support themselves.

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