Thursday, January 28, 2010

Retirement Planning 101

As most of my business is centered around retirement planning, I feel obligated to post more on this topic than any other subject. We live in an era where company pensions have been replaced by 401k plans. While this is great from a company perspective, it puts the burden on you to save for your future AND make smart investment decisions.

Getting Started: How much should I be saving? How much will I need? Will socking away 5% of my pay get me the hammock on the beach? Tough to tell. Whether you are working on your business plan, personal goals or a retirement dream... everything starts with a plan! Put it in writing.

Author Stephen Covey of the popular "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", has it right when he says "Begin with the end in mind." Basically, you have to know the end objective. One of my favorite expressions comes to mind... 'Without a destination, you're probably going to get lost!' Similar to driving a car, we simply don't pull out of the driveway and figure out where we're going an hour later. Retirement planning shouldn't be any different.

Don't be too Conservative: Some investors seem to think their retirement money is sacred and should never be put at risk. This is understandable and true to a certain extent. But, everyone needs some growth to simply outpace the rate of inflation. Some amount of risk is required.

Parking your retirement dollars in a money market account is too conservative. You will not reach your goal with little or no growth. Today's money market accounts are paying around 1%. If we follow "Rule of 72" it will take 72 years to double your money (72/1)! Repeat... 72 years! A well-diversified investment of mutual funds earning 8% over time will require 9 years (72/8). Your principal will vary year-by-year, but you are outpacing the rate of inflation which historically has averaged 3.5% over the last 20 years.

Diversification: Cash/bonds/stocks/real estate/commodities should all be considered when creating a well-diversified portfolio. The low correlation between each group allows for higher returns and less volatility over time. The idea of having 5 different mutual funds does not mean you are well-diversified. If the funds have similar holdings, they will move up/down in tandem. Selecting the percentages (%) of each one for your situation depends upon your risk tolerance, investment experience and time frame.

Should you require guidance in getting started, creating/reviewing a retirement plan or reviewing your current asset allocations, contact your financial advisor.

Remember...... "Begin with the end in mind."

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