Start Now, Relax Later: Real Tips to Retire Right!

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So you want to retire at 65? Join the rest of America. Unfortunately, most Americans begin saving for retirement too late and without much of a plan. As the years creep by, more and more 9-to-5ers enter their late 50s far behind their retirement goals. To ensure you're heading in the right direction, here are some helpful tips to guide you in your quest to never work again!

5 Tips For A Good Start

1. Get Educated

IRA, 401K, Asset Allocation, Buy and Hold Return--what does it all mean? The first step in smart retirement is education. Schedule a meeting with a financial analyst or accountant and get informed. If you don't even know how to start the conversation, go to your local bookstore or library. A good base of knowledge will make you more comfortable discussing your options and deciding what's best for your money and your future.

2. Have a Plan

Once you're educated, create a plan and stick to it! Most people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. Having a well thought out retirement plan can greatly increase the probability of achieving your goals. Write down your plan and set goals for yourself. Check your progress periodically to be sure you're on track.

3. Invest in a 401k or IRA

Retirement may be the last thing on your mind right now. Even if retirement seems a lifetime away, you should be saving now. When invested in a 401k, your earnings grow tax-deferred. The earlier you start investing, the longer your contributions will grow and multiply. A few bucks a month now can become thousands by the time you retire. If your employer doesn't offer a 401k, set up an IRA to grow your retirement nest egg.

4. Diversify

Depending on your age and your retirement plan, diversification is key. Risk and growth potential go hand in hand. If you plan on withdrawing funds in the next few years, your approach should focus on savings and bonds. If you have more time to let your money grow, put a larger percentage of your money into high-growth stocks.

5. Company Match

If your company provides a 401k match, take advantage! With a company match, an employer matches employees' contributions up to a certain percentage. Essentially, passing up the company match is like saying "no" to free money.

5 Tips For Continued Success

So you've learned the ins and outs of a retirement plan, your options are in front of you and you've just started to invest in a 401k. Now what?

1. Roll Employer Plans to an IRA

IRAs allow for greater investment control, increased account protection, and beneficiary advantages, including continued tax deferral after your death. A 401k is great, but an IRA may be smarter.

2. Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Follow your investments and make changes accordingly. One way to ensure periodic check-ups is to block out some time with your accountant during tax season. As times change, technological, economic, and political shifts occur. They can affect your investments, so change with the times to ensure your current strategy is always the most advantageous.

3. Don't Tap into It!

Retirement funds are for retirement—not before. When you withdraw money from your retirement account before you retire, you're hampering growth potential and usually paying outrageous fees for early withdrawal. Plus, typical plans allow only five years to pay back the withdrawn money. After that, Uncle Sam will take the remaining distribution and add a 10% penalty if you are under 59?.

4. Plan for a Longer Life

The fact is, people are living longer and the cost of living will continue to grow. Plan to live well into your 80s and save enough money to maintain your lifestyle that long. This will ensure you won't have to go back to work at age 75. Also take into consideration extra healthcare and insurance costs that may arise as you age.

5. Once You Retire, Don't Stop Investing!

The planning should never stop, so get used to it! Take what you've earned and continue to make it grow. If you do retire at 65, half of your portfolio should be in equities. If you work part time after your retirement, put some of that money away too! Roth IRAs offer tax-free growth and estate planning to ensure your beneficiaries are secure upon your death.

It takes more than just saving your pennies to retire with wealth—it requires thoughtful planning and careful monitoring. But the payoff—a comfortable, worry-free retirement—is worth it.