Prepping for Your Golden Years: A Beginner's Guide to Retirement

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According to a study conducted by GoBankingRates in 2016, nearly 33 percent of Americans report having no savings tucked away in a retirement account. While the remaining percentage of adults have started saving, around 23 percent of them have saved less than $10,000. With retirement costing significantly more than half of what Americans have prepared for, it comes as no surprise that seniors are remaining employed well into their seventies and beyond.  A study conducted by LendEDU stated that 54.6% of older Americans do not believe they have enough saved for retirement, while 18.8% were unsure if they did. Around 19 percent of seniors, in fact, are still working on a part-time basis. This is the highest reported rate in over 50 years. However, this notion is encouraging younger professionals to think ahead to their golden years.

When to Start Saving

Financial experts recommend saving for retirement as early as possible. For some professionals, this may be in their 20's, while for others, due to student loan debt or other financial constraints, this may not be until 35. In either scenario, it is never too early or too late to begin. If you are getting a later start, however, you may need to take a more aggressive approach and contribute a larger percentage of your income to savings.

Types of Retirement Savings Accounts

A 401(k) plan is the most common way to begin saving for retirement. With this type of savings plan, funds are automatically taken from each paycheck before taxes are deducted. The money is then transferred to the 401(k) account where it may be invested into stocks, bonds and money market investments. You can determine how much of your salary you contribute to your 401(k) and most employers will match your investment. Since the money has not been taxed prior to entering the account, it will be taxed upon withdrawal. A less common account, known as a Roth 401(k), deducts taxes prior to depositing the funds and has more flexible policies when it comes to withdrawal.

In the event that your employer does not offer a 401(k) plan, there are other options to consider such as a Simplified Employee Pension, Simple IRA, Roth IRA or a Health Savings Accounts. The best option for you will vary based on your specific circumstances and it may be worth speaking to a financial planner to determine which plan will yield the best results.

How Much Money Should I Save?

Typically, financial gurus recommend that you should have between 70 percent to 90 percent of your current annual income covered between Social Security and savings. For example, if your current income is $65,000 per year, you will want to aim for a yearly retirement income of around $45,000 to $59,000 to maintain the lifestyle you have become accustomed to. This figure, however, is a general guideline and largely depends on how you plan to spend your retirement. If you intend to travel or enter a luxury retirement community, for instance, you may need to save more. It is also important to prepare for unexpected events such as health complications or exceeding the average life expectancy by several years.

How to Balance Current Expenses and Retirement Savings

Many people mistakenly believe that to save for their retirement, they have to juggle current expenses or drastically change their lifestyle. Fortunately, with a little strategic planning, you can prepare for your golden years without disrupting your life. Consider creating a budget and eliminating unnecessary expenses that will not make much of a difference. For instance, pack your lunch more often or prepare your morning coffee at home instead of stopping at a coffee shop. These changes may sound minimal but, over the course of your professional career, they can add up to big savings for the future.