Many Americans don’t use financial planners for all the wrong reasons. Some don’t think they have enough money tucked away. Others don’t even know where to start. In fact, half of Americans don’t know where to turn for financial advice. And 20 percent say they have no idea how much they need for retirement.
All that explains why most of us have saved so little for retirement. But, as I say all the time, it’s never too late to start.
Here’s something to help get you going. Over the past few months, as I’ve talked to dozens of financial advisers, I’ve asked for their best retirement tips to share with readers.
So here you go, just in time for the new year:
“My best retirement advice is: Design the life that you want, and then figure out how the financial component has to work. So often I hear people say, ‘I am going to live somewhere cheaper when I retire. I don’t think I can afford to live here.’ If living here depends on what is important, if your family is here, then groceries cost the same, entertainment costs the same. If there is not enough money, consider trading down. But don’t let it rule your life. Maybe you live in a smaller place. Isn’t that better than having a bigger house 10 hours away? Decide what is important to you. Do the math, and let’s see if it works. If it doesn’t work, then look at sacrifices and trade-offs.”
- Tom Mingone, founder of Capital Management Group, New York
“In our office we come at retirement plans with a two-pronged plan. There will be a plan to provide the needed income - the money clients need to pay their everyday bills. We will treat that money differently. We want it to be predictable. We want it to have a lot less market risk. If we can put guarantees around income, we will. Everything beyond that, whatever that number is, above and beyond the needs, is where we will take more market risk trying to increase the overall nest egg, because we can’t predict the market. We can’t predict what interest rates will be. If we build guarantees about income, we don’t have to rely on factors we can’t control to make sure your retirement is sound.”
- Jennifer Landon, founder of Journey Financial Services, Ammon, Idaho
“Start as early as you can. Take advantage of the full company match or profit sharing. Develop a plan and stick to it. Don’t react to short-term market ups and downs. Aim to save 10 times your ending salary by age 67, as a rule of thumb.”
- Jeanne Thompson, senior vice president, Fidelity Investments, Boston
“When we talk to retirees now, what they always say is they should have started earlier and saved more. That is a very consistent piece of advice retirees would offer their younger selves.”
- Christine Marcks, president, Prudential Retirement, Hartford, Conn.
“Start saving and don’t stop! The sheer act of consistently saving into a reasonably balanced portfolio over time is the single most powerful step toward financial security. As you get closer to retirement, don’t get lured into ‘one- dimensional’ strategies, such as ‘invest in all stocks and live off the dividends,’ or ‘buy all munis.’
“Successful retirement income planning relies on taking a ‘multi-dimensional’ approach, which incorporates traditional portfolios (dividend-paying stocks included), guaranteed income sources (such as Social Security, pensions and annuities) and meaningful liquid bank savings. By employing different strategies, retirees have more tools to help navigate through head winds during retirement, which could last 30 years or longer.”
- David Fleisher, president and CEO, Firstrust Financial Resources, Philadelphia
“Create a retirement income plan well before you plan to retire. That will give you a good idea of how much you need to save. People who have done it will have the flexibility of when they want to retire. I have clients who could retiree, but they are enjoying work. These are their highest-earning years. They don’t want to retire. I said if the environment changes or their health changes, we can go to the plan. It is comforting to know they could leave today if they want.”
- Reid Abedeen, Safeguard Investment Advisory Group, Corona, Calif.
“Find a Certified Financial Planner professional to help you understand where you are financially and where you want to be at retirement. Many times we believe we can handle something like painting our home ourselves to save money. We often learn the hard way that if we had only hired a professional painter, we not only may have saved time and money in the long run but possibly a trip to the emergency room. A professional will have the right tools to analyze the situation and recommend the best course of action to get the job done effectively and efficiently.
“You should approach developing a financial plan through a similar lens.”
- Wendell B. Fuller, Fuller Wealth Advisors, Richmond.
“What is your lifestyle going to be? Will you want to travel? Will you move? You’ve got to have a plan. If you don’t, you plan to fail.”
- David Blackston, Blackston Financial Advisory Group, The Villages, Fla.
Rodney A. Brooks writes about retirement and personal finance for The Washington Post. Rodney has had a long and distinguished career in financial journalism. He previously worked at USA Today from 1985 until his recent retirement.