August Insights - 7 Ways to Stay on Track and Meet Your Retirement Goals

Jeff McClenning |

Are you on track to retire comfortably?  What are your financial goals?  How much income will you need to generate each month when you have retired?  What might be some of your longer-term goals outside the financial arena, but goals that would be aided by a larger pool of savings?  Our regular check-ins are designed to measure progress toward your goals, making adjustments as life’s journey unfolds.  Saving for retirement is a long game; It’s a marathon.  You could compare it to the fable The Tortoise and the Hare.  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.  It leaves far too many folks exposed to the many financial pitfalls that are lurking.  As Ben Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Fortunately, you do have professional support and a plan in place.  Following are seven ideas that we encourage on a regular basis.  You have already implemented many of these concepts; others you may want to do more with as we move into fall.   And they are all excellent reminders of what keeps  you on the path toward financial independence.

  1. Set goals.  Too many people simply guess what they will need in retirement, and many don’t have a written plan to reach what goals they have set.  Others simply don’t have any goals. If you don’t have goals, you’ll drift, financially speaking.
  2. A comprehensive and holistic financial plan is a must.  While regular savings is important, a roadmap that takes you to your goals is critical.  Did you know that if you start saving $600 per month at age 30, you will have $1 million when you turn 65, assuming an average return of 7% per year [].  If you start saving at 20, $300 per month will allow you to hit the same goal.  We’re not saying that $1 million is the magic number, but the example highlights that consistency, starting early, and the magic of compounding can help you reap big rewards.  We assist you by advocating a diversified portfolio that generally includes stocks, bonds, fixed income and more. While much work goes 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.  We help to bridge the divide between the simple savings account and a diversified portfolio.
  3. 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.   Why aren’t we saving? According to the survey, 38%  of working Americans have too many expenses.  For example, on average Americans shell out more than $2,900 a year on restaurants, prepared drinks, and lottery tickets.  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 quickly find ways to cutback while still enjoying life’s pleasures.  And consider paying yourself first when you receive your check by setting up an automatic payment into savings.
  4. Retirement savings is a key component.  If you want to stay on track for retirement, the importance of regular contributions to a retirement fund is 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.  Be sure to contribute what you need to receive your employer’s full match.  For 2021, you may contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA or Roth IRA ($7,000 if you are 50 or older) [].  Just be aware that the IRS imposes various limits based on your income.  We’d be happy to share additional details, or you may check with your tax advisor.
  5. Did you get a new job?  Congratulations.  As you look at benefits, how quickly can you start contributing to your company’s retirement plan?  Plus, don’t forget about your prior 401(k) plan.  Roll it into an IRA or into your new 401(k).  Unless there is an extraordinary circumstance (and we’re not talking about a new TV or a vacation), don’t fritter away your retirement assets.  Withdrawals from these tax-deferred plans will probably be subject to taxes and penalties.
  6. Get out of debt today.  Some debt can be productive.  For example, a mortgage allows you to purchase a home and build equity instead of renting.  But in many cases, debt can be counterproductive.  Your student loans helped you pay for your 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.  Besides, many come with high interest rates.  As with credit cards, student loans, and other unproductive liabilities, we can offer you guidance that helps reduce and eliminate burdensome liabilities.
  7. Check in with Social Security. has a considerable arsenal of resources.  It’s a good idea to check in online and make sure there has been an accurate accounting of your annual income.  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.

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