Plan for a comfortable retirement

Published 10:27 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2012

By Mark U. McGahee

Whether you’re content to fish Suffolk’s lakes or play Suffolk’s golf courses when you retire, or travel far and wide, you had better make a plan.

Few of us can count on generous pension plans from employers where we spent all of our working lives. Social Security was never designed to fully provide for anyone’s retirement, and many people question its sustainability in the future.

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Oh, and by the way, Americans are living much longer now than our grandparents did. A person retiring at age 67 may need a retirement income source for 25 years or more. But how can you know if your retirement plans are adequate?

First, you have to know how much you must have to live comfortably in retirement. A good place to turn for help is the CNN/Money retirement calculator.

Next, you must determine how much you need to save monthly to meet your goal. The earlier you begin saving, the better, because compounding is a powerful force. To see for yourself, Google “compound interest” and click on one of the calculators that is linked.

You should also diversify your investment because interest rates and investment return vary over time.

After you have begun to contribute, you must stay on top of your finances. If you have a qualified retirement plan through your employer, you will likely receive statements every quarter.

If you are over the age of 25, you will get an annual statement from Social Security disclosing the amount of benefit you can expect at retirement. Typical IRAs at banks or brokers also generate quarterly statements.

Total your values and determine where you are, compared with where you should be according to your needs in step one. If you discover you are off track, you may need to adjust your approach. However, remember both economic and market volatility cause some years to be more lucrative than others.

Don’t forget about long-term needs. Medical costs for the elderly almost always exceed those of working people. Medicare and its supplements rarely cover the full cost of long-term care, so getting long-term care insurance is a wise choice. Be sure to take the time to research the insurance carrier, its financial strength and its claims history.

Your future is too important to ignore and leave to chance. Many Americans continue to work for pay after they have “officially” retired. Surely some do it for pleasure, but many must do it to survive. What about you?

To be able to have a choice, save and invest as much money as you can as soon as you can. The younger you are when you start, the more you will accumulate. Inadequate savings now can result in a financial crisis later on.

Should you decide to seek help from a financial planner, visit the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards at for comprehensive financial planning information.

Mark U. McGahee is a financial planner and specializes in investment and protection planning. Email him at