How to Create Your Personal Retirement Plan

Retirement planning doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is to have a written or digital plan that works for you.

Here are four steps to get you started. For more help with your retirement plan or portfolio, consider working with a financial planner or robo advisor.

Step 1: Start with your goals.

Step 1: Start with your goals.

Your retirement plan should be based on your specific needs and goals. Use the statements below to help clarify the retirement that’s right for you.

I plan to retire when I’m ________ years old.

I’ll need about $________ a month for expenses. Use our budget planner to add up your expenses, including needs (like food, housing and healthcare), wants (like travel and entertainment) and wishes (like gifts or a second home).

Everyone’s situation will be different. But a safe approach is to plan for the same income you have today. Keep in mind that some costs (like work-related expenses and retirement contributions) are likely to decrease after you retire, while others (like health care and travel) may increase.

I need my retirement money to last about ________ years. Most healthy people should plan for living until they’re 95. If you retire at age 65, this means you’ll need your money to last about 30 years.

I plan to save $ ________ a month for retirement. Save at least enough to get the full company match, if your employer offers one. Learn how much to save based on your age.


Step 2: See where you stand.

Step 2: See where you stand.

Once you know what you want to achieve, your next step is to determine if you’re on track to reach your goals. Use our retirement savings calculator to find out.

In addition to your goals and savings, our calculator will take into account other income you might have during retirement, like Social Security, a pension, rental income or an annuity.

If you’re not on track, we’ll show you specific ways to adjust your plan. You may want to change your retirement age, annual savings or expected retirement expenses to increase your chances of success.


Step 3: Decide how you’ll save and invest.

Step 3: Decide how you’ll save and invest. 

Putting your retirement money in the right place is just as important as knowing how much to save. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Save at least enough in your employer-sponsored account—401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or Thrift Savings Plan—to get the full company match, if your employer offers one. If you have more than one 401(k), find out if a rollover is right for you.1 
  • Use a Health Savings Account (HSA) Tooltip to put money away for future health care costs, if you’re eligible.
  • If you’ve maxed out your employer-sponsored account or don’t have one, consider a traditional2 or Roth IRA3 to boost your savings.
  • If you’ve maxed out your IRA, Tooltip  consider a brokerage account Tooltip to save even more.

Step 4: Check and update your plan, regularly.

Step 4: Check and update your plan, regularly. 

Over time, your needs, goals and investments are likely to change. Check and update your plan at least once a year to make sure it still makes sense for you. You should also check it after any major life event, like marriage, divorce, a job change or loss of a loved one.

Regularly rebalancing all the accounts in your portfolio can also help keep your retirement plan on track by keeping your risk level stable, regardless of market ups and down.


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