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Larry Ellner
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Putting the Pieces of Your Retirement Puzzle Together

Published on 6/24/2014
For additional information  Click Here

Putting the Pieces of Your Retirement Puzzle Together

if life is a journey, retirement is the destination where you reap the hard-earned rewards for decades of working. But, as with most good things in life, a comfortable retirement doesn’t just happen without effort. It requires a sound, comprehensive financial strategy.

Retirement planning can be like a jigsaw puzzle. Once you put the interlocking pieces together, you will be ready to develop a retirement plan that will meet your financial goals. Let’s look at the following four pieces of the puzzle:

1. Social Security—Most working Americans will receive Social Security benefits that provide a basic level of retirement income based on the length of time worked, amount of earned income, and age at retirement.

2. Employer-sponsored pension plans—If you have a defined benefit or pension plan, your employer provides a retirement benefit in the form of either monthly income or a lump sum. The amount of your benefit is generally based on your salary, length of service, and a benefit formula that averages the employee’s earnings over a prescribed period of time.

3. Employer-sponsored retirement plans—If your employer sponsors a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k), you may contribute a percentage of your pre-tax income to a retirement account, as defined by the company plan. Your employer may also match a percentage of your contributions. Earnings have the potential to grow tax-deferred.

4. Personal savings—Personal retirement savings may be key to achieving your financial goals. A disciplined savings program can help you accumulate additional assets to supplement Social Security benefits and employer-sponsored plan funds.

Taking Action

Your first step is to assemble the pieces of your retirement planning puzzle to determine if your projected income and assets will be sufficient to fund a comfortable retirement. Although Social Security and any employer-sponsored pension plan offer relatively fixed benefits, you may be able to increase your 401(k) contributions and personal savings to supplement any expected shortfall. Regular contributions and tax-efficient vehicles can help build your assets over time.

If possible, maximize contributions to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. Contributions to a 401(k) come from pre-tax salary, and taxes on both contributions and earnings are deferred until you retire. Note that there are limits to the amount you can contribute each year.

You may also choose to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). If you are under age 50, up to $5,500 may be contributed to an IRA or a combination of IRAs in 2014. For those age 50 and over, an additional $1,000 may be contributed. Contributions to a traditional IRA may qualify for a tax deduction, and earnings have the potential to grow tax deferred. However, taxes will be owed on withdrawals in retirement, without penalty, if you are over age 59½. Contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible, but earnings have the potential to grow tax free. Distributions in retirement are also tax free, provided you have owned the account for five years and are at least age 59½.

Whether you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, now is the time to start planning for your retirement. Be sure to consult a qualified financial professional to help you devise a strategy for the retirement you envision.

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