7 retirement savings strategies to boost your financial security

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The Importance of Retirement Savings

We plan for our work commute, vacation and even when to have dinner based on what's on TV. But in our hyper-scheduled world, why is it that we neglect to create a plan for how our future self will pay the bills when our income will not be what it once was?

In other words, why don't people create a savings plan for retirement?

There are a number of factors that discourage people from sitting down and doing some math on their money situation. They may feel that it takes too long, or that needs years from now are not as pressing as the needs of today. Maybe they are saving already and don't think they need to document it. Or perhaps they don't think it's all that important and would rather be doing something else.

It doesn't have to be this way. Creating a plan or system for putting money away can be a lot more straightforward and simple than it may seem on the surface. That said, here are seven steps to help build your financial security.

1. Work backward. The great Stephen Covey once said, "Begin with the end in mind." You can't know how to create a savings plan without knowing how much you'll actually need to save.

To do this, figure out what you'll want your retirement to look like and when you'd like it to begin. Now you have an idea of how many years you'll need to save for. Keep in mind that people are now living well into their 80s and 90s, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that you'll be retired for 25 or even 30 years. Many people may not realize they will be in spending mode (retirement) for even longer than they will be in savings mode (working career). Let that sink in.

2. Figure out how much money you'll need. How do you want to live in your golden years? Have you had this conversation with your spouse?

If not, see if your idea of retirement matches his or hers. If it doesn't, it may be better to have a serious conversation sooner rather than later to make sure you're both on the same page. As a financial planner, I'm often asked to step in as the "mediator" for such a conversation, since it is not always an easy discussion. A third party can help keep things moving.

If you already know how you envision retirement, fantastic. You can start to write out all of your current expenses, then see if you'll have the same expenses later. While you may not have a mortgage payment, your health care costs will likely increase. It's important to take these changes into consideration. What seems like a small detail now can cost you thousands later.

What you'll find, though, is that if you take the time to list what you'll need and want, this nebulous retirement savings figure starts to become much more tangible. Also, by breaking it down into small, monthly targets, it becomes more manageable as well.

3. Determine your earning potential. If you've been working in your field for a while, you probably have a good handle on what you'll be able to earn for your remaining working years. If not, check out websites like PayScale or the Bureau of Labor Statistics for averages and projections. This can help you adjust your plan, as well as manage current expenses.

4. Factor in your savings and spending. On the savings side, what have you already put away? In future years, what can you realistically save? Remember to include how this money can grow as well.

On the spending side, see where can you compromise or reduce expenditures. There are a lot of things we spend money on, and if we can reduce this figure by even 5 percent to 10 percent, that could add up to a lot over time.

5. Diversify. This is where advice from a financial professional may come in handy. To make sure that a market downturn wouldn't completely throw off your retirement plans, get a few different savings vehicles and check in regularly.

A professional will be able to steer you in the right direction based on your individual situation and goals.

6. Automate. Set up as many payments as you can on auto pay from your checking account. Doing this can prevent that feeling of annoyance you'll get from missing a payment just because you were out of town for a long weekend. These fees can and do add up.

7. Enjoy. If done well, there will be a reward for you at the end of your career journey. While everyone's goals are different, there is still one constant: Retirement is there for you to enjoy.

If you decide to take even a few of these steps, you'll likely be in better shape than if you chose to do nothing. And the more you put into the process, the better you will feel about how your plans – and results – are looking for your future.

Securities offered through SII Investments Inc. (SII), Member FINRA, SIPC. Advisory services offered through Scarborough Capital Management, a registered investment advisor. SII and SCM are separate companies. Neither SII nor SCM provide tax or legal advice.

Opinions, estimates, forecasts and statements of financial market trends that are based on current market conditions constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice.

This material is for information purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security.

Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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