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It’s never too early to plan for retirement

POSTED: October 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.

You’ve heard the saying, “Vote early and vote often.”  That might be an old joke, but there’s a similar saying you should take very seriously — “Save early and save often.”  Unfortunately, it’s a phrase not everyone knows or puts into practice.

Most Americans are unprepared for retirement. Almost half of us haven’t recently set aside any money for savings or investments, according the February 2007 COUNTRY Financial Security Index. A related Cotton States Insurance survey says about 40 percent of us don’t start saving for retirement until after 30, and a quarter of us haven’t started saving at all. That means millions of Americans are not taking steps to retire comfortably. The longer they wait, the more it will cost them.

The early bird gets the worm 
Retirement usually isn‘t on the minds of younger people, even though it should be.  People in their 20s often graduate college with hefty credit card debt. Student loans and car payments seem to be bigger priorities. People in their 30s and 40s are often focused on their children’s college tuition and house payments. In many peoples’ minds, there never seems to be a good time to save for retirement.

Procrastination comes with a price. If a person invests $3,000 per year beginning at age 35, it’s likely he/she will have almost $490,000 at retirement. If that person begins saving the same amount just a decade earlier, the total would be $718,000. That’s $230,000 more. The length of time you invest is just as important as the type of investments you make.

How to get help 
A successful plan starts with the understanding that retirement is just as much a priority as a mortgage payment or power bill.  Make room for the financial commitment in your life, even if it means you have to reduce spending elsewhere. Take your lunch to work a few days a week. Buy a car with better gas mileage. Skip the $4 coffee every morning.

Retirement educational resources are everywhere.  You can find information on the Internet, in books or you can listen to advice from family members. The most helpful education, however, comes from a financial professional, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute. Here are some issues to consider when choosing a financial advisor:
• You don’t have to be wealthy to have a financial advisor.

• Ask questions.  A financial advisor should make your plan understandable, not complicated.

• Make sure your advisor tailors a plan to fit your specific needs.

Your happiness in your retirement years largely depends on what you do today.   Take charge of your future.

Mark Czachowski represents Czachowski Insurance Agency in Springfield.

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