1. Know your retirement needs
Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you'll need about 70% of your pre-retirement income. Lower earners will need 90% or more to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Understand your financial future.
2. Find out about your Social Security benefits
Social Security pays the average retiree about 40% of pre-retirement earnings. Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 for a free Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) or use one of their online calculators.
3. Learn about your employer's pension or profit sharing plan
If your employer offers a plan, check to see what your benefit is worth. Most employers will provide an individual benefit statement if you request one.
Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension. Learn what benefits you may have from previous employment. Find out if you will be entitled to benefits from your spouse's plan.
For a free booklet on private pensions, call the U.S. Department of Labor at 202-219-8776.
4. Contribute to a tax-sheltered savings plan
If your employer offers a tax sheltered savings plan, such as a 401(k), sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy.
Over time, deferral of taxes and compounding of interest make a big difference in the amount of money you will accumulate.
5. Ask your employer to start a plan
If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, suggest that they start one. Simplified plans are available to certain categories of employers. For information on simplified employee pensions, order Internal Revenue Service Publication 590 by calling 1-800-829-3676.
6. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account
You can put money into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and delay paying taxes on investment earnings until retirement age. If you don't have a retirement plan (or are in a plan and earn less than a certain amount), you can also take a tax deduction for your IRA contributions.
Withdrawals prior to age 59-1/2 may be subject to a 10% penalty tax. IRS Publication 590 contains information about IRAs.
7. Don't touch your retirement savings
You'll lose principal and interest, and you may lose tax benefits. If you change jobs, roll over your savings directly into an IRA or your new employer's retirement plan.
8. Start now, set goals, and stick to them
The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Devise a plan, stick to it, and set goals for yourself. Start saving now, whatever your age.
9. Consider basic investment principles
How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you'll have saved at retirement. Know how your pension or savings plan is invested. Financial security and knowledge go hand-in-hand.
10. Ask questions
Talk to your employer, your financial institution, or a financial advisor. Be sure the answers make sense to you. Get practical advice and act now.