How not to be a retirement statistic

retirement planningIf you're among the newly reported 43% of American workers who do not have more than $10,000 in retirement savings, you better keep reading. WalletPop has immediate tips to get you on the right track toward life after work. The first piece of advice: Don't panic.

"Many people have been forced by weak markets and the recession to have a do-over in their financial lives," Mitchell Slater, a senior vice president and financial adviser for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, told WalletPop on Monday.

"Try not to stress out too much and just, as Nike says, do it. The younger you are, the better the news is for people worried about not saving enough for retirement."
Slater's do-it list includes four musts:
  1. Start with a monthly plan to PAY YOURSELF FIRST. "Even if it's $50 a month put in a mutual fund, it will grow over time," he said, adding that it's also a good idea, if possible, for those out of work to do the same, perhaps with a small portion of their unemployment check.

  2. Take a hard look at your budget and start cutting. can help you track and analyze what you spend to streamline within reason, Slater said. "Once you truly track all your expenses, you can start cutting the fat. Look to liquidate the luxuries. Separate the 'wants' from the 'needs.' You need food to live but do you really need the Starbucks Latte every day?"

  3. Enroll in your company's 401(k) plan. Yes, you read that correctly. "401(k)s have been hurt hard by the downturn, but lately we see some companies offering matches again," Slater said. "That is free money that you cannot leave on the table. There will be no pension plans. It is up to you to force savings and hopefully have a company that will reward you for that effort."

  4. Estimate what you believe you will need to live on in retirement. Again, can come in handy if you can't meet with an adviser. If you have less than $10,000 right now, you might have to say arrivederci to that villa in Portofino.

"Be realistic," Slater said. "You may have to raise your own retirement satisfaction by lowering your standards."
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