Make Your Retirement Your Priority

Make Your Retirement Your Priority Many Americans who planned to retire within the next five to ten years are unhappy to find that their long-term savings, their nest egg, falls short of what is needed to retire when and as comfortably as planned. They are finding that their nest egg is not sufficient to secure a steady stream of income during their retirement years. And women are especially vulnerable.

According to a recent GE Center for Financial Learning, most respondents underestimated the life expectancy of a 65-year-old today by five years or more. In fact, only 11% of those surveyed knew that the average 65-year old today has a life expectancy over 85 years of age. However, women tend to live longer than the average.

The Administration on Aging reports that in 2001, women accounted for nearly 60 percent of the population age 60 and older, and 70 percent of the population 85 and older. In fact, because women tend to outlive their husbands, women are less likely to be able to stay at home and so are twice as likely as men to end up in a nursing home. Therefore, it is especially important for women to make up for lost savings time. Fortunately, it's easier than you might think.

Simply make your retirement your priority. Throughout their lives, women make sacrifices for their husband, their children, and their elderly relatives. By making your retirement saving accounts your priority now, as your planned retirement date draws near, you can make up for lost time. To start with, if you do not already have one, establish an IRA. Even if you are a non-working spouse, you can deposit up to $4,000 (for 2006) a year into an IRA, plus an additional $1,000 (for 2006) if you are age 50 or over.

While the tax-deferred compounding of the IRA may have a powerful impact on the growth rate of your savings, you may need to increase your savings in other ways also. For example, if you are still working, you can contribute at least enough to a 401(k) plan, if it is available, to earn the maximum employer match allowed by the plan. Additionally, many employer retirement plans allow workers over age 50 to contribute an extra $5,000 (for 2006) above what younger workers are permitted to contribute.

Making up for lost time through increased savings can be done. And, it might be less painful than you would imagine. Consider Kathy who is fifty years old and plans to retire at 60. Kathy wants to increase her savings level but knows that her ability to change her income is limited. On the other hand, her ability to change her expenses is totally at her discretion. So Kathy decides to take two simple steps.

First, instead of making her morning coffee at home or buying it on her way to work, Kathy is saving money by simply waiting until she arrives at work and drinking coffee provided by her employer. By doing this Kathy is able to save approximately $7 a week and she contributes that savings to her IRA. Over the next ten years, Kathy can painlessly save a total of $3,640 which, assuming it grows at an average of 5.5% a year, would grow to $4,860 by the time Kathy is ready to retire.

Kathy has also decided that instead of eating in restaurants as often, she will eat one less dinner out each week. Assuming she would have spent an average of $20 for each of those restaurant meals, Kathy is able to save an additional $10,400 before she reaches age 60, her planned retirement age. Again assuming an average growth rate of 5.5% a year, these savings will have grown to $13,888. By doing these two simple things, Kathy will have painlessly increased her retirement nest egg by $18,748 and will retire more comfortably, more happily.

At the end of the day, as Aristotle said, our "happiness depends on ourselves." There is still time to increase your retirement nest egg to an amount that will be sufficient for you to retire when and as you originally planned. By doing just one or two simple things, you can significantly increase your savings, too. Your financial advisor can show you how painless it can be to make your retirement dreams happier.

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