18. February 2015 17:27
by Nora Super
We all know the importance of yearly physical check-ups: regular health exams and preventive screenings are key to healthy aging. While you’re scheduling your annual physical this year, you may want to also consider an annual financial check-up, especially as it relates to retirement security. Retirement security is one of the four focus areas of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.
Doing an annual financial check-up for retirement— an assessment and examination of our retirement needs—can be is important, particularly since we’re living longer and healthier lives. That means we can expect to spend more time in retirement, or semi-retirement, than our parents or grandparents. Financial security in retirement is one of the things we need to prepare for to ensure that a long life is also a good life—and it requires attention throughout our working years so that we’re as ready as possible.
A secure financial foundation for retirement was historically envisioned as a three-legged stool with support from Social Security, pensions, and savings or investments. In his recent State of the Union Address, the President mentioned how programs like Social Security were set up to “protect ourselves from the harshest adversity,” and protecting Social Security is critical to helping older Americans retire with dignity. But we can’t just sit back and wait for our benefits to start. Just like our physical health, we need to take proactive steps to ensure our own financial health.
A good first step is establishing a my Social Security account. Setting up an account is quick, secure, and easy. Whether you plan to receive Social Security benefits someday—or already do—this personal online account will allow you keep track of your earnings, verify them every year, get a benefit verification letter, manage your benefits, and more.
Additionally, the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Planner provides detailed information about your Social Security retirement benefits under current law. It also points out things you may want to consider as you prepare for the future, for example, determining your retirement age, estimating your benefits, and learning about Social Security programs. If you are nearing retirement age, the planner also provides information on topics such as discovering your retirement options and applying for Medicare once you turn 65.
Of course, determining when to retire and how to ensure a secure retirement often depends not just on Social Security but on the other two legs of the stool: pensions, and savings and investments. As the availability of private pension options decreases, and fewer workers spend their careers with a single employer, savings and investments are becoming all the more important for retirement security. Currently, as many as 78 million working Americans—about half the workforce—don’t have a retirement savings plan at work. Fewer than 10 percent of those without plans at work save in a retirement account on their own.
One new option to consider is myRA. Unveiled in the President’s 2014 State of the Union Address, it’s a simple, safe, and affordable retirement savings option intended for people without access to employer-sponsored retirement options. There are no start-up cost, no fees, and no minimum contribution requirement—so savers can contribute the amount that best fits their budget. The investment in a myRA is backed by the U.S. government, so it will never go down in value, and it earns the same rate of return available to Federal employees through the G Fund.
Committing to an annual financial check-up for our retirement needs is an important resolution we can make at any time of the year. Consider doing it now. Take the pulse of your retirement financial plan—and see if it’s beating steady and well, to help ensure many good years ahead.
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