How To Bring In The New Year: 3-steps To A Dream Retirement
What resolutions will you be tackling this year? More exercise, a healthy diet, a new hobby or skill? While the approach of a brand new year offers an opportunity to take on new projects, the end of the year is also a good time to reassess existing projects. Perhaps the most important project of all is your retirement plan. Are you on track to retire when you want to?
If doing what you want, when you want sounds like your idea of a dream retirement, then you’ll want to take steps now to make sure you’re on track to get what you deserve.
Here’s how you can:
- Create a retirement file
- Protect and monitor your Social Security benefit
- Fill your income gap
1. CREATE YOUR RETIREMENT FILE
The tenants of good retirement planning basically boil down to good financial advice. You can either choose to follow this advice, or ignore it, but either way, you’re going to find yourself getting older. Retirement will no longer be a distant horizon, but something that feels real. Now is the perfect time to take stock of what you have in place to see if there are any holes in your plan.
To create a retirement file, simply gather together all your financial planning documents and put these statements in one, secure place. Your file should include any outside investment accounts, IRAs, life insurance policies, and long-term care policies. Review these to make sure that all beneficiary designations are up to date. Also, make sure to set up or locate the following:
- An Emergency Account: This could be a money market savings account or just a regular savings account. Ideally, you will have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in this account. This is money you can readily access in the event of an emergency so that you don’t have to go dipping into your retirement plan, sell stocks at a loss, or accumulate credit card debt.
- A Summary Plan Description (SPD): The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires plan administrators such as your employer to give employees and beneficiaries who participate in their retirement plans a Summary Plan Description (SPD). This document describes your rights, the benefits you’re entitled to, and your responsibilities under the plan in what is supposed to be understandable language. If you have questions about your vesting schedule, investment fees or allocation for risk, you will want to take a look at your SPD to assess if your current allocation model is right for you and if not, then you’ll want to take steps to correct that before it’s too late.
- A Will or Living Trust: If you are a young family just starting out, a will can give you peace of mind as it will provide for the guardianship of your children in the event that something happens to you or your spouse. As your assets grow and your estate becomes more complex, a living trust can be organized so that your assets transfer to your loved ones without having to go through probate. Or, you can set aside money an annuity to pass on money to your heirs without probate. One thing to be aware of, just because you list someone in your will as your beneficiary doesn’t mean they will get the money in your 4501(k). Beneficiary designations on all retirement accounts must be up to date.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Your Healthcare and Financial Matters: A durable power of attorney goes into effect while you are still living in the event that you are unable to speak or do things yourself. Financial power of attorney allows you to give someone you trust the right to pay your bills and handle financial matters on your behalf. Healthcare power of attorney gives someone you trust the authority to speak on your behalf during a medical emergency.
2. MONITOR YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY
With an estimated 17.6 million cases of identity theft reported by U.S. residents age 16 and older, protecting your Social Security benefit has never been more important. Imagine filing for your benefit and being told that you’re already claiming it, or cashing your benefit check only to have it bounce! Social Security fraud is on the rise, which is why the Social Security Administration created a new tool for you to protect and monitor your benefit.
Get your free My Social Security Account today. The Social Security Administration (SSA) created a new online program to help workers manage their benefits. My Social Security Account (MySSA) is an online tool where you can go to do the following:
- Keep track of and verify your earnings
- Monitor for potential fraud in real time
- Get an estimate of your future benefits
- Start or change your direct deposit options if you’re already receiving benefits
To create this account, you will be asked to provide personal information about yourself, as well as giving answers to financial questions. Next, you’ll create a username and password that you’ll use to access this online account. The final step is to enter a one-time security code provided to you either via email or text to finish creating your account.
While the Social Security Administration maintains a robust cyber-security system, you may choose to opt out and block all electronic access to your Social Security account information. Choosing this option means that no one, including you, will be able to see or change your personal information on the Internet, or through the SSA’s automated telephone service. You can reverse this decision. According to the SSA, this might be the right thing for you to do if:
- You have been the victim of domestic violence
- You have been the victim of identity theft
- You have a good reason for not wanting your record to be available
3. FILL YOUR INCOME GAP
Before you retire, you’ll want to know how you’re going to replace your income. Most people can count on an amount from Social Security, and if you’re lucky, you might also have a pension. The majority of Americans—80 percent—will have to use their IRAs, 401(k)s, and other investment accounts to create their own pension. To do this, you need to be able to fill your income gap.
The difference between the income you need and the income that you have from guaranteed sources such as Social Security is known as the income gap. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to fill the income gap is by getting an annuity. An annuity might be a good option for you it:
- You are 10 or fewer years away from the time of retirement.
- You have a known income gap that you need to fill.
- You want to know that this income is guaranteed for life no matter what happens in the stock market.
- You don’t want to pay brokerage fees in order to get an income.
A lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about annuities, some people even hate them. Regardless, they are the only financial instrument that can get you a guaranteed income for life. Some annuities participate directly in the stock market while other annuities don’t. To find out what kind of annuity is the best for you, you’ll want to shop around and compare. Better yet, talk to an independent financial advisor who is not affiliated with any particular insurance company. By working with an annuity expert who is independent, you’ll have a better chance of getting the kind of annuity that pays out the highest income to you instead of the highest commission to them.
Do you have questions about your retirement income plan? As the #1 provider of independent annuity reviews in the USA today, we’re on a mission to provide unbiased information and advice. Reach out to us today and get your retirement plan on track so you can enjoy the retirement you deserve.