IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS, RETIREES STOPPED WORKING AT 65 and spent their golden years relaxing on the beach or playing golf, supporting such lifestyles with monthly pension checks. Today, retiring on that same timeline is out of reach for many, as more companies end their pension programs (one of the most recent is Lockheed Martin, which plans to begin a freeze in 2016).
American workers are retiring later than ever. Just 11% said they expected to retire after age 65 back in 1991. However, in 2014, 33% said they expect to retire after age 65, and 10% don't plan to retire at all according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey. The top reasons for delaying retirement are the poor economy (25%) and the inability to afford retirement (18%).
Despite these grim statistics, you can create a retirement that best fits your current situation. Whether you're a millennial just getting a handle on retirement savings; a forty something squeezed on both ends by your children's college costs and caring for aging parents; or a later-stage professional recovering from a lack of retirement planning or embarking on an encore career, we've designed a new playbook to advise you on any given scenario.
THE NEW FACE OF RETIREMENT
The employment and financial growth of millennials, who grew up in the age of new technology and right in the middle of one of our nation's greatest economic crises, has been heavily impacted. Today, millennials make up 40% of unemployed workers, compared with Generation X and baby boomers, who comprise 37% and 22%, respectively. Despite coming in as our country's most educated generation, with 90% completing at least their high school education, and 63% finishing at least some level of college, millennials' academic achievement is not being quickly transformed into occupational advancement, stymieing the economic growth of those within the 18-35 age range. As part of a generation scrambling for steady employment, many haven't spent much time thinking about the prospects of retirement and career-end financial goals. However, no matter your current financial state, an early conversation about retirement plans is prudent.
Recognizing the millennial generation's dire need for financial literacy, certified financial educator Tonya Rapley (pictured left) founded the blog "My Fab Finance," as an effort to keep millennials, including herself, on track with their financial goals.
"I started 'My Fab Finance,' and it's my accountability partner because I think an accountability partner is key in achieving any goals, especially financial goals," says Rapley. "So I set up the blog to basically help me achieve a 750 credit score by the age of 30 and I blogged what was working, what wasn't working, my suggestions, and my failures. Then it turned into people asking me for advice who were also on the journey or interested in starting their own journey, so I figured [the blog] was cool in helping millennials with whatever financial goals they were interested in achieving."
After fixing her credit, 30-year-old Rapley started to get more serious about her retirement savings and within a year's time she's saved $12,000. Setting aside 15% of her paycheck for retirement savings, she's building an investment portfolio in which she allocates 30% of her assets in fixed-income securities and 70% in equities.
Rapley's initiative to take her finances seriously and prepare in advance for retirement is not one that's new to working millennials. A survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies finds that among millennials who are offered a 401(k) plan, 71% take advantage of their employer's plan and save a median 8% of their annual salary. Meanwhile, members of Generation X are saving a median 7% of their paycheck and baby boomers a median 10%. However, a Bankrate 2014 study revealed that a majority of young Americans have not embraced the stock market. It revealed that 39% of respondents aged 18 to 29 find cash--among the lowest-yielding vehicles--as their preferred means of investing money that they don't need for at least 10 years.
"It's important to remember that as a young person, time is on your side. Even if the market has ups and downs in the short term, you have a long time to recoup from volatility and earn strong returns," says Antwone Harris, vice president and senior financial consultant for Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.
Harris maintains that young professionals should not use risk or market volatility as excuses to delay investing for retirement. "In fact, research from Schwab Center for Financial Research shows that investing in stocks, even at the worst time each year, is almost always better than procrastinating and not investing at all," says Harris. "Let's say you invest $2,000 every year for 20 years in the S&P 500; even if you invest at the market's peak every year, you'd still end up with more than $72,000 over the course of two decades. If you leave your money...