Some financial analysts describe people that don't save and delay planning for retirement as facing the "retirement postponement syndrome" or RPS. Many of these procrastinators hope that something magical will happen to boost their savings, but usually they end up desperately scrambling to save as they get older. (For more, see The Top 4 Reasons To Save For Retirement Now.)
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The people trapped in retirement postponement syndrome are often in debt or overly extended from paying their children's college tuition and mortgage payments. In fact, a 2006 Consumer Federation of America and Financial Planning Association survey revealed that only 10% of people expect to save a million dollars in their lifetime, 11% hope to inherit money and 21% are depending on winning the lottery. Only 55% said saving monthly was the best route for a sound retirement.
Too many people act like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" who saw her life crumbling but said, "I'll think about it tomorrow." But one financial expert noted that "No one at age 65 ever complained that they've saved too much."
People who take steps to place their financial life in order can avoid RPS and plan for the future if they control their spending and save regularly. Here are five steps for avoiding retirement postponement syndrome:
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Assess Your Financial Situation
Analyze your financial portfolio. How much have you saved, and how much are you in debt? What is the status of your cash flow, income and expenses? What changes can you make, and what can you cut back on? If you're unsure of finances, work with an expert, a financial planner or CPA to start developing a plan for the future.
Given the choice between saving and buying a dress or a flat screen TV, most people opt for the immediate gratification of material goods. To ensure savings, take advantage of any company's 401K plan, which builds automatic deposits by deducting a percentage of salary from your paycheck. If you're self-employed, create your own SEP-IRA savings plan. (To learn more, see our SEP IRAs Tutorial.)
Create a Master Savings Plan
If you live to age 70 and beyond, how much money will you need? Devise a monthly, long-term plan to save and try to defer taking social security. The longer you delay tapping social security, the more money you obtain. Living below and not beyond your income is the secret to saving.
Use Compounding to Build Savings
Start saving in your 20s and watch your money grow. Financial planners note that an 18-year old who save $20 a week or $1,000 a year and invest in the stock market, which averages 10% return a year (on average), can save a million dollars by the time they turn 65. If they start at thirty, consumers must save $67 a week and at forty, $188 a week to reach a million dollars. Starting to save early can maximize the effects of compounding, which multiplies your money based on returns. (To find out how much you need to save, check out our Millionaire Calculator.)
Tap the Three Factors to Success
Financial experts say investors have three factors in their favor: time, rate of return and the amount saved. If consumers stay out of debt and begin to save, they can watch their money grow. Time is an investor's best friend.
The Bottom Line
You don't have to be in the top 2% of wage earners to start saving for retirement. For example, one couple in their thirties - one a firefighter and the other a nurse - together earned about $100,000 annually. They spent $35,000 a year, paid $15,000 in taxes and saved $50,000 a year. At a normal rate of return, the couple can amass $2 million before they turn 50. It's not what you earn but what you save that determines effective retirement planning. The moral: people who save a portion of their income can become millionaires even on a middle-class income and avoid the retirement postponement syndrome. (To learn more, check out 10 Steps To Retire A Millionaire.)
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