Planning and saving for retirement can be very challenging. Over the last six weeks, we've gone over ways to plan and save for retirement in each decade of life up to the 70s. Though each decade did have their unique differences and unique challenges, there were a lot of similarities.
In this post, I am going to explain each of these similarities to give you a general guide of how to plan for retirement.
Create a budget
First and most important step, create your budget. The basic steps to creating a budget:
1. Write down your monthly income
2. List all of your necessary expenses (savings, bills, food, etc.)
3. List what your typical discretionary spending look like (nights out, clothes, etc.)
4. Compare income to spending.
5. Make adjustments as needed.
For a more in-depth guide on how to create a budget, click here.
Now that you've created your budget, you have a general idea of how much you make versus how much you spend. Now we have to take that spending and put it under a microscope. Diligently track your spending for a month or two. Where does your money actually go?
Are you saving enough? Is a lot of your monthly income going towards debt? How about going out with friends?
Take a close look at this spending and cut where you need to. If your goal is to achieve financial independence ASAP, you should cut most of your discretionary spending, and put most of your income towards retirement savings and debt.
Get rid of debt
As I've said in the past, debt is mostly a pain in the butt. It ties up money that could be better used for saving for your goals. There are, essentially, two kinds of annoying debt. Student loans and credit card debt.
With student loans, a great first step to getting rid of them is to consolidate and refinance. For an in-depth guide to refinancing student loans, click here.
As far as credit cards go, there are a couple of ways to tackle that debt.
1. Pay them off diligently and strategically.
2. Transfer some or all of your balance to an interest-free credit card.
3. Take out a personal loan to consolidate.
For a closer look at how to get rid of your debt, click here.
This one should be easy, but if you want to retire early or improve your progression, save more money. If you've created a budget and cut out unnecessary spending, you should have some extra money each month.
The first thing to do, however, is to set enough aside for emergencies. This will give you peace of mind, knowing that you have money available to cover any unforeseen expenses, and will also prevent the likelihood of an emergency sideswiping your financial plan.
Evaluate your investments
Let me start by saying that each decade, and each person for that matter, is going to have different goals, a different risk tolerance, and a different time horizon.
With regard to your investments, make sure you are investing according to your unique goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Diversify and be wary of fees. With regard to fees, generally the lower the better. Make sure you are reviewing your investments on a regular basis.
Note: All investments come with risk, including loss of principal.
Adjust your insurance
As you age, you acquire cars, houses, and other stuff. You will also, create a family. From auto and home insurance to life insurance, the coverages you need will change. Make sure you are reviewing this coverage regularly and are making changes when necessary.
In my opinion, it's always a great idea to work with a personal insurance professional to help with your coverages.
Visualize your retirement
What does retirement look like for you?
Picturing your retirement will be easier for those that are closer to it. For those of you that are in your twenties and thirties, retirement probably feels very far away, but it'll come quicker than you think.
Imagine what retired life will be like. Where will you be? What will you be doing? Asking yourself these questions will provide you with a good idea of what retirement will be like. With that, you will have a better understanding of what you need to plan and save for.
Plan your estate
The thoroughness of your plan will depend on your age. Having a plan, however, is necessary for everyone, whether you are close to retirement or not.
First, make sure you have some sort of life insurance coverage to protect your loved ones. Next, make sure you have a will so your family and your things are taken care of.
If you have a significant amount of assets, or you have family members that you are particularly worried about, a trust may be a good solution.
Regardless of how detailed your plan is or how unlikely it may seem that you'll need it, it's important to have something in place.
Ask a professional
No matter where you are in the retirement planning process, it's always a good idea to ask a professional for help. They will be able to examine your plan, gauge your progress, and then help you fill any holes if need be.
For a better look at how to choose a financial professional, click here.
Planning for retirement is hard. No matter what stage in life you are in, there are always challenges and things that can get in the way.
If retirement and achieving financial independence is important to you, you will be diligent with your plan. You will create a budget and cut costs, you will regularly review your plan and your progress, and you will ask for help to make sure you are on the right track.