As both Self-Improvement Month and Self-Care Awareness Month, September serves as a strong reminder to take time out of our busy calendars and turn the spotlight on ourselves. Representing two sides of the same coin, self-improvement asks the question “how can I push myself to meet my goals?”, while self-care asks, “how can I be kinder to myself in the process?”
Often, when pondering the answers to these and similar questions, we direct our attention to physical health: Can we eat healthier? Sleep more? Exercise more frequently? While these goals are certainly important, physical health is only one among many areas that serves to benefit from our inwardly-directed efforts.
Financial health, for instance, is another area worthy of our attention. Can we save more? Do we have a plan for retirement? Are we meeting with a financial professional for help? As we make our way through September, use this month as an opportunity to think through the following questions.
Are you happy with your retirement plan?
Nearly 90% of Americans are not very confident in their overall retirement savings situation. Moreover, the most common retirement fear is outliving savings, and 56% of Americans admit they are unsure if their retirement savings will last their lifetime. If you fall into any of these majorities, it’s worth spending time to figure out what steps you can take to improve your long-term financial health. These could include: 1) talking to a financial professional, 2) examining your long-term financial goals, 3) exploring retirement calculators to understand future possibilities and 4) staying up to date on the latest financial trends.
Are there areas in which your retirement plan could be better meeting your needs?
While many of us think of Social Security as the only “lifetime income” option for retirees, other options such as fixed indexed annuities (FIAs) can also help you avoid the risk of outliving savings. In fact, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 80% of 401(k) plan participants surveyed said they were interested in putting some or all of their balances in a guaranteed lifetime income option like an annuity.
Are you being honest with yourself?
To avoid unnecessary surprises, it’s important to set realistic goals and create an achievable strategy for success. For example, many boomers overestimate the monthly amount of Social Security they will receive by $500. This is a budget miscalculation that will leave them almost a quarter of a million dollars short over a 30-year retirement. To ward off such a possibility, free retirement tools can help provide insight into your monthly income needs, your tax obligations, your potential Social Security payment levels and other considerations that can help you paint a picture of what to expect once you stop working.
Planning for retirement is a lifelong process, and we don’t become experts overnight. As you make progress this month and beyond, remember to be patient. Keep in mind small steps, added up over a lifetime, can result in unbelievable progress.