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“Success is no accident.  It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” 
–Pele, Brazilian former professional footballer (soccer) and among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century.

Are you on track to retire comfortably?  If already retired, are you confident in your retirement income planning?  What are your financial goals?  How much income will you need to generate each month?  What about your longer-term goals outside the financial arena, like personal goals that would be aided by a larger pool of savings?  Our regular check-ins are designed to measure progress toward your goals, adjusting as life’s journey unfolds.  Saving for retirement is a long game; it’s a marathon.  A sprint won’t get you to your destination.  Slow and steady progress will.

Unfortunately, 75% of Americans receive no professional assistance for this long haul.  In our view, that’s simply unacceptable.  Fortunately, you do have professional support and a plan in place.  Below are four behaviors that we encourage on a regular basis.  You may have already embraced some of these concepts; we urge you to take another look at them as we move into year end.

1.  Set goals

Too many people simply guess what they will need in retirement, and many don’t have a written plan that outlines the goals they have set.  Others simply don’t have any goals.  If you don’t have set targets, you’ll drift, financially speaking.  As Ben Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”  A broad, holistic, and comprehensive financial plan is a must.

Your financial plan comes before investing.  The financial plan and your attitude toward risk are important inputs to determine your portfolio’s target asset allocation.  We assist you by advocating a diversified portfolio that generally includes stocks, bonds, fixed income, and more.  While we put a lot of thought into the individually crafted plans we recommend, much of what we counsel is based on the evidence that long-term exposure to stocks has outperformed simple savings accounts.

2.  Still working?  If so, never stop saving

After paying for housing, food, and other expenses, are you able to consistently save money?  A survey by Bankrate suggests that one in five Americans aren’t saving anything, and only one in six save over 15% of their income.  We aren’t saying that a spartan existence that eliminates frills, fun, and entertainment is the path to take.  Instead, examine your expenditures closely.  You might find ways to cut back while still enjoying life’s pleasures.

If you want to stay on track for retirement, regular contributions to a retirement fund are critical.

Employee 401(k) contributions for 2021 top out at $19,500, with an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution allowed for those that are 50 years or older.  At a minimum, don’t leave any free money with your employer.  The minimum contribution should be an amount that gets you your employer’s full match.

3.  Get out of debt today

Some debt can be productive.  For example, a mortgage, especially in the current rate environment, allows you to purchase a home and build equity instead of renting.  But in many cases, debt can be counterproductive.  Student loans helped you pay for your or your kid’s education.  Although the situation with student loan debt is fluid, this is debt that’s best paid off.  Credit card debt also falls under the unproductive category.

4.  Check in with Social Security

The Social Security website (ssa.gov) has a lot of resources.  It’s a good idea to check in online and make sure there has been an accurate accounting of your annual income through the years.  If your income is understated, your benefits will be shortchanged.  Our goal is to help you replace a substantial portion of your income when you leave the workforce.  How much will depend on your goals and what you may want to do in retirement.

We firmly believe that these ideas are a great place to start, putting you and keeping you on track for and throughout your retirement.