Need retirement plan retooling?
Where does your retirement plan stand? Although this phase in everyone's life looms in the future, many people fail to set aside the money they will need to fund a healthy and happy retirement. Others who have saved diligently over time may have been hit hard by the stock market declines of the last couple of years, finding that their nest egg has declined sharply in value.
If you're not sure what your next best step might be, the Minnesota Society of CPAs (MNCPA) offers this advice for anyone dealing with the new realities of retirement.
It's still smart to save
Even if your retirement portfolio took a beating in the stock market last year, don't throw up your hands and stop contributing to your plan altogether. You will still need to pay for your expenses in retirement, and it's smart to have more than Social Security payments to cover your costs.
If you've been burned in the markets and are reluctant to dive in again, you may want to choose investments that are least subject to market volatility and less likely to decline in value. If you're uncertain about the best choices, speak to a trusted business adviser, like your CPA, about your best investment options. But don't stop saving now or you're sure to regret it later.
Assess your situation
The news has been full of stories of people whose retirements have been affected by market volatility, but don't immediately assume you're in the same boat.
Instead, make a careful analysis of your financial situation to see where you stand. Do you know if your retirement portfolio will still cover your income needs in retirement? The CPA profession's 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program offers free resources to help you get started on answering that question.
On the program's website, www.360financialliteracy.org, you'll find tools to assist you in evaluating how much money you'll need in retirement and closing gaps in your retirement income. Once you understand a little more about your expenses down the road, you can make better savings and investment decisions today.
Consider ways to increase your nest egg
At what age do you plan to retire? Obviously, the longer you work, the more money you'll be able to set aside for your retirement account. And, of course, by continuing on the job you delay the point when you begin withdrawing from your retirement savings, which means there will be more waiting for you when you do quit working.
In addition, your Social Security benefit will be affected by your age at retirement. Let's say you were born in 1954, which means that your full retirement age for Social Security is 66. If you were eligible to receive a $1,000 monthly benefit by retiring at age 66, that benefit would be cut to $750 if you retired at age 62. Of course, you do begin receiving the benefits sooner, so the total you get will average out over time. (You can learn more on the Social Security Administration website at www.socialsecurity.gov.)
Given these variables, the best plan is to consider your individual and family circumstances and review the benefits you will receive at different ages before you make your decision.
Consult your CPA
Having trouble calculating your retirement needs and creating a reasonable savings plan? Remember that your CPA can help. Ask him or her about all the financial questions facing you and your family.
Information and resources are available to the public on the MNCPA website at www.mncpa.
org/information, including tax and financial planning information for individuals and small businesses.
A free CPA referral service is also available on the website or by calling 800-331-4288. The MNCPA is part of the national 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy campaign to help Americans improve financial literacy; information and resources are available at www.mncpa.org/360.