How to Start the Retirement Planning Process

Retirement is what comes after years of working or following a career path. The average person spends about 20 years in retirement according to the U.S. Department of Labor, although there’s some variation. That means the average person should have enough savings to support themselves for about 20 years without working. Another term for retirement is financial independence, meaning you have enough invested or saved to live as you want, without having to work.

A retirement plan is designed to make sure that you have the financial resources available to support yourself and maintain your lifestyle once you leave the workforce. Retirement planning is a multistep process. First, you need to figure out how much you’ll need to save to retire comfortably and maintain your standard of living. Next, you’ll need to consider what you want your life to look like after retirement. From there, you can focus on how to save and invest your money.

Several factors influence your overall approach to retirement planning. Your age is one factor — younger people often save less but have more opportunity for their savings and investments to grow thanks to a longer time horizon. Your risk tolerance is another factor. If you’re nearer to retirement, you might have a lower risk tolerance than a person who is just getting started and has decades to let their investments grow.

The options available to you also influence your overall retirement plan. You might work for a company that sponsors a retirement plan, such as a 401(k). Alternatively, you might be self-employed and need to explore other options. A financial advisor who’s a fiduciary can help you put together a plan to meet your retirement goals and live a comfortable life after you’ve stopped working.

How to Start the Retirement Planning Process

With so many options at your disposal, you’re never too young or too old to begin planning for retirement. The first step of retirement planning should come from within. Take some time to envision your ideal retirement. How old would you like to be when you retire? How much would you like to have saved up? Goal visualization can help to inform your ultimate strategy.

You’ll want to begin saving and investing with some goals in mind. Calculate your income, establish a budget, then either set up automatic transfers into an investment account or plan time to do so manually. Your retirement strategy should also include and prioritize prompt debt elimination.

Many companies offer compensation packages, like 401(k) or 403(b) plans that pay out matching contributions from the employee and employer at the time of retirement. Other viable retirement plan options include mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that spread your investment across a wide range of securities.

Another option worth considering is partnering with a financial advisor. The right advisor can offer numerous financial services that can help individuals retire with confidence.