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Planning Priorities: How to Save for Retirement

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VO: When putting together a financial plan, retirement is often one of the top items on the agenda. Take these steps to save for retirement: Ask yourself the big questions, figure out what you have, decide what you’re going to need, and map out how you’re going to get there.

First, what does retirement mean for you?

LEO GONZALEZ-SOUTO: It’s going through those questions, which is “What am I trying to do in my life? What is important to me? Is it spending time with my family? Is it traveling? Is it experiences? I may be able to work doing those things, but I may want to give myself the independence to do it and find whether that is actually what I want to do.” I think the more you can think about your career and what you want to obtain from that starts to guide the questions on “How am I preparing for retirement? What should I do to do that?”

VO: If you’re young, retirement may feel out of sight, out of mind. But successful investors often get started by sticking to some basic investing principles.

DAVID JAMISON: I would say just follow some basic rules of thumb—that “Hey, start now. Start early.” You don’t want to wait until later in your life to start retirement savings because you want to have that benefit of just time in the market and compound growth working for you, and then when you get closer, that’s when you can start to think about “OK,” you know, “What do I want my lifestyle to be like?”

VO: Next, what do you currently have? Consider the assets that you plan to tap into when retirement arrives: 401(k)s, IRAs, HSAs, etc. Don’t include other accounts like an emergency savings, home equity, or your children’s education account, for example, that are probably not going to be what support your expense needs in retirement.

Third, how much will you need?

CINDY SCOTT: Two decisions we need to make. When do they want to retire? OK? So like what age, what year? And then the other piece of that is we’ve got to estimate how long those retirement savings will need to last to support them during that time. And the way we do that is we have a pretty robust conversation about life expectancy.

VO: Also, what kind of lifestyle would you like to have in your retirement? This answer looks different for everyone. Some people may want to spend more in early retirement knowing they may have to pare back later. Some aim to simply maintain their current lifestyle throughout retirement. Whichever way you see living in retirement, make sure to build in some variables unique to the later stages of life.

CINDY SCOTT: A lot of times they haven’t really fully assessed how much care is going to cost them later in life. What if you get sick later in life and need care on a more extended basis, either in your home, in a facility, or ultimately in a nursing home? How do we make sure you’re going to be OK in a situation like that?

VO: Finally, how will you get there? The most actionable question right now. Once you have a direction to the earlier questions, then you can adjust your savings to help you get there. If you’re behind, it’s important that you don’t panic no matter what stage of life you’re in. The key is staying flexible and adjusting to help you get to your end goal of retiring.

CINDY SCOTT: But we do have some levers we can pull to make the plan more successful. The most typical ones are work a little bit longer, right? So maybe not retire exactly when you want. Let’s run the plan several times and see how much longer you have to work. Save more money, right, because the more you work, the fewer years, now, you have to live off of your investments. And working longer means continuing to save, so you’re building up more assets. Investing a little bit more aggressively is an option, but I usually save that one as like the last resort to try to get more growth. And then the fourth option is typically—we might have to look at reducing the expenses.

VO: Also, understand how your portfolio aligns with your time horizon and risk tolerance. The longer your time frame, the more you can allow for market ups and downs so that you can potentially get more from your investments. It’s also important that you’re comfortable with your holdings in the market for the long haul.

DAVID JAMISON: So I would say to somebody, “I would rather you be in something more conservative, knowing that you’re going to stick with it, than invest in something that’s maybe more aggressive and what you ‘should’ have invested in even if you’re not really comfortable.”

To learn more about making a plan to reach your goals, visit Schwab.com/plan.

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Important Disclosures

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.

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