How to Set a Retirement Savings Goal

Many people realize the importance of saving for retirement, but knowing exactly how much to save is another issue altogether. With all of the retirement information available, it is sometimes difficult to decipher what is appropriate for your specific situation.

How much do you need to save?

One commonly cited guideline is that retirees will need approximately 80 percent of their pre-retirement salaries to maintain their lifestyles in retirement. However, depending on your own situation and the type of retirement you hope to have, that number may be higher or lower. Here are some factors to consider when determining a retirement savings goal.

Retirement age: The first factor to consider is the age at which you expect to retire. The earlier you retire, the more money you will need to last throughout retirement. It's important to prepare for unanticipated occurrences that could force you into an early retirement.

Life expectancy: Although you can't know what the duration of your life will be, a few factors may give you a hint. You should take into account your family history - how long your relatives have lived and diseases that are common in your family - as well as your own past and present health issues. Also consider that life spans are increasing with recent medical developments. When calculating how much you need to save, you should factor in the number of years you expect to spend in retirement.

Future health-care needs: Health-care costs have been rising much faster than general inflation, and fewer employers are offering health benefits to retirees. Long-term care is another consideration. These costs could severely dip into your savings and could become financially challenging if the need for care is prolonged.

Lifestyle: Do you want to travel? Are you planning to be involved in philanthropic endeavors? Will you have an expensive country club membership? Are there any hobbies you would like to pursue? The answers to these questions can help you decide what additional costs your ideal retirement will require.

Many baby boomers expect that they will work part-time in retirement. If this is your intention and you find that working longer becomes impossible, you will still need the appropriate funds to support your retirement lifestyle.

Inflation: If you think you have accounted for every possibility when constructing a savings goal but forget this vital component, your savings could be far from sufficient. Inflation has the potential to lower the value of your savings from year to year, significantly reducing your purchasing power over time. It is important for your savings to keep pace with or exceed inflation.

Social Security: Many retirees believe that they can rely on their future Social Security benefits. However, this may not be true for you. Social Security only replaces a portion of an average wage earner's income and may not be as much as you expect.

And the total is…

After considering all these factors, you should have a much better idea of how much you need to save for retirement. The important thing is to come up with a goal and then develop a strategy to pursue it. The sooner you start saving and investing to reach your goal, the closer you will be to realizing your retirement dreams.

Plan for tomorrow. See a financial advisor today.

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