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Retirement Planning Tips

Retirement planning is really a combination of an art and science. You can plan for an annual retirement income that you would like to see in your retirement years - perhaps something that is at least the income that you earn now or a percentage of your current income. You'll also want to estimate your expected retirement expenses and make sure you protect your retirement savings against inflation. You'll want to plan for a longer life to avoid running out of income during your retirement years especially if longevity runs in your family. Ask yourself, do you wish to retire and live off only your retirement savings or do you plan to work in retirement to supplement your retirement savings? If you are not yet retired, do you need to continue saving in order to better meet your retirement goals? All of these estimates and considerations are important to factor into your retirement plan and your Financial Advisor can help you make sure that you're well positioned to retire the way you want.

You have been told how important retirement planning is in order to ensure you retire securely and comfortably, especially if you are closer to those days, but where do you begin to plan for your retirement? Well, you should answer one of the most simple but most critical questions to get you started - how much income do you think you'll need to retire comfortably on an annual basis in your retirement years? The amount you will need to fund your retirement should be inclusive of the type of lifestyle you plan to have in retirement such as your passions for traveling, your expected health care expenses, and any goals you may want to achieve while you're retired such as donating money to a cause you're passionate about. Your specific retirement needs will depend on your unique financial goals along with other factors.

Use your current income as a benchmark
Usually, a good place to estimate the income that you'll need in retirement is your current income. Your desired retirement income can be a percentage of your current income, which, depending on your financial goals, can be anywhere from 60 to 90 percent. This is typically a favored approach because it is backed by common sense analysis: Your current income provides for your lifestyle today, so taking that income or a percentage of that income makes sense since you would expect it to cover your retirement lifestyle if you decide to leave a similar lifestyle. In addition, you may not face certain expenses in retirement that you may face today like paying your mortgage or paying payroll taxes.

However, you have to be careful using this approach to estimate your retirement income, because it is not meant to account for specific situation. There are things you do in retirement that you may not do in your current lifestyle such as extensive travel. Traveling for example can easily demand 100 percent of your current income, or even more, to ensure that you get by. Nevertheless, it's fine to use a percentage of your current income as a starting point, but it may be a good idea to go over your expenses in detail to see which expenses will go away, decrease, or increase as you transition into retirement.

Project your retirement expenses
Once you get an idea of your necessary annual income in retirement, it should be enough to cover all of your retirement expenses. Knowing your retirement expenses is a critical step in the retirement planning process, but many people have a hard time identifying what these expenses are and how much should they expect to spend in each area. Getting your mind around this puzzle is even more difficult if you are still far off from retiring. Below are some common retirement expenses that you should plan for in advance:

•Food and clothing
•Housing: Rent or mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowners insurance, repairs
•Utilities: Gas, electric, water, telephone, TV
•Transportation: Car payments, auto insurance, gas, car maintenance, public transportation
•Insurance: Medical, dental, life, disability, long-term care
•Health-care costs not covered by insurance: Deductibles, co-payments, prescription drugs
•Taxes: Federal and state income tax, capital gains tax
•Debts: Personal loans, business loans, credit card payments
•Education: Children's or grandchildren's college expenses
•Gifts: Charitable
•Recreation: Travel, dining out, hobbies, leisure activities
•Care for yourself, your parents, or others: Costs for a nursing home, home health aide, or other type of assisted living

Keep in mind that these costs will go up over the years specifically due to inflation. The average annual rate of inflation is about 3% to 4%, which is the rate at which your purchasing power will decrease.

Also, as much as we would like to plan for every retirement expense, these expenses may change from one year to the next. For instance, you may have happily paid off your mortgage or a child's higher education costs early in or by your retirement. At the same time, other expenses such as healthcare costs may increase as you get older. But you should hedge yourself for these ups and downs by being conservative in your estimates. Your Financial Advisor can help take a look at your expenses to make sure that they are as accurate as possible.

Decide when you'll retire
You retirement needs don't stop at just estimating how much income you may need to cover your retirement expenses and live a comfortable retirement. You will also have to factor in approximately how many years your retirement savings will need to last you. Obviously, the longer your retirement years, the more retirement funds you'll need. This will partly depend on when you want to retire and partly on your longevity. For instance, you may feel that you are ready to retire at 50. Even though there is nothing wrong with that if your financial situation allows for it, you will need to bear in mind that a retirement starting at 50 will cost substantially more to fund than a retiring at 65.

Estimate your life expectancy
Your lifespan also plays an important role alongside the age you plan to retire. A long life will cost more because you will need income for those extra years of retirement to fund. There is also a horrifying risk of outliving your retirement savings/income. To make sure you do all you can to avoid that risk, you will need to conservatively estimate your life expectancy. You can use some resource in this regard such as government statistics or life insurance tables that will help you get a good estimate of how long you are expected to live. These tables are based on many factors, including your age, gender, race, health status, occupation, family history, and so on. Needless to say, these are estimates and there is no way to know for sure how long you'll live, but because people these days are living longer and healthier lives, it is reasonable that you will live longer than you expect.

Identify your sources of retirement income
Once all of these estimates of your retirement income needs are put together and they are as accurate and realistic as can be, the next thing to do is to see what you've done up to this point to ensure you are prepared to meet these needs. In other words, what will be your retirement income sources? Your employer may have a traditional pension plan in place that will pay you pension benefits once you retire. You will also receive Social Security benefits. To get your Social Security benefits information you can go to the Social Security Administration's website (www.ssa.gov) and request your statement. Other source of retirement income may include contributions that you have made into a company 401(k) plan or IRAs, annuities, and other investments you may hold. The amount of income that these retirement sources will generate will depend on how the funds are invested, the investment return, along will other factors.

Make up any income shortfall
If you are fortunate enough, your retirement income sources will generate more than enough income so you can fund your retirement. But what if there are shortages? Don't worry - there are ways to bridge that gap. Your Financial Advisor can help you put together a set of strategies to fill in the gap in the best ways.