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May 13, 201312:47 PMSmall Business, Big Ideas

with Jean Willard

Retirement: It isn’t just about age anymore

I recently saw an article in The Wall Street Journal about Americans giving up on their retirement plans. The writer commented that two-thirds of Americans aged 45 to 60 say they plan to delay retirement, a steep jump from two years ago when fewer than half of the respondents said they expected to put off retirement.

Many things influence our retirement plans, including caring for parents and grandchildren, instability in our jobs, a roller-coaster stock market that has affected our retirement savings, low savings account yields, rising tuition costs for our children, and the fact that most of us live longer.

Right beside all those factors are the many options we have to consider when we plan for retirement. Other things that need to be considered include Social Security benefits now and in the future, whether we have saved enough, whether our careers allow us to work longer, and whether work provides us with satisfying challenges. Once retired, do we wish to travel or live quietly at home? What will happen to our health?

I would challenge anyone who reads this to reconsider how they save for retirement. Some older theories held that you should look at all your assets and methodically liquidate them so that you have a monthly payment that will hopefully outlast your retirement years. However, with the bumps our savings and retirement plans have encountered, we need to learn to continue to live lean. For example, if you look at your home as an asset for retirement, it will have to be sold to produce available cash – not typically what most of us want, but an option to be sure.

In the worst of the economic downturn, many consumers successfully worked to lower the balances on their credit cards. People need to continue to do this, saving both pre-tax and post-tax dollars. The future will always be uncertain. But many of us still have time to save, and there’s no time like now.

Here’s what you can do to get started: Methodically set aside money each payday. I can’t emphasize that enough and have preached this repeatedly throughout my career. The U.S. Department of Labor discusses different retirement plan options on its website. If you are a business owner, consider the savings to you and your employees as well as those who follow. It is critical that we fund our retirement savings through continuous repetitive contributions. Not only will you achieve potential current tax savings, you’ll also be able to build a healthy nest egg for your retirement.

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