Retirement income needs depend on many factors—the part of the country in which you live and the lifestyle you wish to maintain, for example. But no matter what retirement holds for you, there are some dos and don’ts in planning for your golden years:
DO start planning as soon as possible. Check with Social Security to see how much you can expect in benefits. Consult with the benefits manager where you work to find out about retirement plans and benefit options. The sooner you know your income needs, the sooner you can begin a program to augment your savings.
DON’T assume your investments and retirement benefits will keep pace with inflation. Declines in stock values are proof that investments don’t always keep up with inflation. It’s better to overestimate the amount you’ll need in retirement and be pleasantly surprised with surplus income, rather than have to cut back due to declining income.
DON’T think you’ll spend less when you retire. While the costs of buying business clothing and commuting may be eliminated, that doesn’t mean retirement is a bargain. If you use your newfound leisure time to travel, explore restaurants, take up new hobbies or start back to school, your expenses may be just as high, or higher, than when you worked.
DO save more, even if you think it doesn’t amount to much. The beauty of compounding is that your savings grow geometrically. If you invest $100 per month at 4% interest, you’ll have a nest egg of nearly $24,800 in 15 years. Your savings will be even greater if the funds are in an IRA, 401(k) or other qualified plan where the money can grow tax-deferred.