A recent United States Department of Labor study found that the majority of Americans are unprepared for their retirement. Fewer than half have begun determining how much they’ll need to save. Between kids, mortgages and various bills, finding the money to contribute to your 401(k) or to resolve your debts can feel impossible. Achieving your financial goals before retirement is feasible, but you must start as soon as possible and determine what it will take to keep you secure in your golden years.
Financial Goals to Consider
Every individual’s financial objectives are different, but in general here are a few you might consider:
Own Your Home. Once considered the quintessential American dream, home ownership has become something of a burden to many Americans. Between refinancing and restructuring, it can take some individuals beyond their initial 30-year plan to pay off their homes. If your mortgage is at the top of your financial to-do list, speak to a financial planner to discover how to make this dream a reality.
Pay Off Your Debt. Paying your debt is another one of life’s unnecessary evils. Aside from a mortgage, the average American is carrying around $36,000 in debt, a number than can skyrocket if you suffer an illness or job loss.
Pamper Your Retirement Fund. It might be an inconvenience now, but maxing out your retirement fund is critical if you want to live comfortably once you quit working. If you aren’t sure about the specifics of your 401(k), ask your company’s HR rep about your maximum contribution limit. See if you can set aside more from each paycheck to ensure you have enough money for a comfortable retirement.
Save for an Emergency. Emergencies are an unfortunate and unavoidable part of life, and they don’t magically disappear after you retire. Setting aside money specifically for emergencies can help avoid unnecessary pressure on your family and bank account.
Consider Your Children’s Education. The cost of a four-year education is skyrocketing, and it’s the dream of many parents to help their children earn a degree without amassing an insurmountable debt. If you aren’t sure how much money to set aside, remember that, on average, college tuition rises three to five percent each year.
How to Set Your Financial Goals
You have your financial must-do list in place, but where do you begin? You don’t need an MBA from Harvard to create a realistic list of your financial goals; you just need to know where to find help.
Seek Assistance and Resources. If using a financial planner isn’t possible, then take it upon yourself to learn what you can about investing, retirement planning, the potential cost of college tuition and the multitude of ways to save for your future. Surf the Internet, browse your local library or attend seminars in your area.
Determine Your Short and Long-Term Goals. Now that you have a list in place, break each step into your long-, medium- and short-term goals. For instance, your short-term goal might be to pay off a certain credit card. A medium-term goal could be to pay off your children’s education. Long-term goals could include creating a rainy day medical fund, paying off your mortgage and maxing out your 401(k).
Review and Evaluate Your Plan Often. You have your plan firmly in place, but don’t assume that every step will be relevant and realistic in five months or even five years. As your life changes, tweak your financial plan accordingly. If some aspect isn’t working, change or remove it.
There’s no time like the present, so don’t put off making a financial plan for your future. Start today by picking up a book or magazine on financial planning or speaking to your employer’s HR rep to set up or expand your retirement fund.
About the Author: Katherine Smith is a guest blogger and a fan of saving money wherever she can. From purchasing cheap checks to negotiating her banking fees, Katherine loves sharing her money-saving tips with her devoted blog followers.