Stop Guessing, Hoping, And Procrastinating!

The number one rule of financial planning for retirement - don't guess, don't hope, don't pay attention to generic advice or benchmarks. Be prepared with a reliable, detailed, written financial plan! You, and your unique financial situation and needs, are not generic and they require individualized attention.

It may not be a task that's at the top of your to-do list, but it should be. Yes, it can be complex and confusing. Yes, it can be tedious to gather all of the information you need to do it correctly (in reasonable detail). Yes, you will need to try to predict the future (an exercise in frustration). Sounds exhausting already! But look at it this way, an hour or two of your time now could save you from years of serious struggle later on. You can easily do it yourself (no experience necessary!) using a good planning tool, or you can hire an advisor to do it for you, but get it done. You will be amazed at what you learn, and relieved to know just where you really stand and what you can do, specifically, to reach your goals.

Every moment that you are guessing, hoping, and procrastinating is adding risk to developing a successful plan.
You may be able to afford a little risk at a young age (25 - 35), but as you get closer to retirement (closer means 10-15 years away) the risk increases exponentially because saving money, and having invested amounts accumulate interest/dividends/capital gains, takes time. Most people can only afford to save a fixed amount each month/year, and can't make up for lost time by deciding to all of a sudden start saving twice as much. At a young age, time is your friend. Over ~age 40, time starts working against you. The earlier you start planning/saving, the less pressure there is on how much you need to save on a monthly/annual basis because you have time on your side.

Here's an example you've probably seen many times before, but it's worth repeating:

Start saving $300/month ($3,600/year) at age 30, earning 5%/year (reasonable), and you will have ~$360,000 at age 65, or almost triple the amount saved. Save the same amount starting at age 40, and you will end up with ~$190,000. Roughly 1/2 as much even though you're saving for 2/3 as long. Start at age 50, and you'll only have ~$87,000.
The impact of starting late(r) is clear.

Imagine if you started saving $300/month at age 30, and doubled that amount every 10 years as your salary grew ($600/month at age 40, and $1,200/month at age 50). You would end up with ~$745,000 at age 65. It would be
even more if you grew the amount saved slowly over that time rather than taking big jumps at ages 40 and 50. 
You get the point - start saving whatever you can as soon as possible, do it consistently, and add to it when possible.
Most importantly, know how much you will really need to save.

If you do not currently have a comprehensive financial plan, don't wait to figure all this out any longer!

No matter your age, your salary, or how much you're currently saving, having a written financial plan for retirement
is essential. It can, and will, change as you go along, but you need to establish goals, and a firm idea of what it will take to achieve them. You wouldn't climb a mountain, hike into a forest, or drive across the country without having a destination in mind - or at least exploring a map of possible routes to take. A retirement plan is your financial map, and your ability to retire is a far more serious trip. You only get one chance to get it right, so not having any plan at all is very risky, and not likely to end well. Just like traveling, planning for retirement is an adventure with plenty of unknowns, but having a Plan A, and a Plan B, will help you to safely navigate through decades of variables.

That is the most important retirement planning advice you'll ever hear.
Take the necessary steps to make sure that you have a reliable, well thought out, detailed plan for retirement well before you retire. Running out of savings late in life is a difficult position to be in, and nearly impossible to recover from.
As Ben Franklin once said, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”.


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