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Setting Up Your Ride Toward Retirement in the 21st Century

by Joe Buhrmann

Like traveling toward your summer road trip’s destination, planning is an important piece to help you get to your ultimate career destination: retirement. While Otto von Bismarck may have pioneered a public-sponsored retirement plan in 1889, it wasn’t until Franklin Roosevelt penned the Social Security Act in 1935 that the idea of retirement for Americans came into being.  Ever since, Americans have envisioned, then celebrated, reaching the stage between work and death – retirement.

As progress and decades marched on, and savings and life expectancy improved, Americans added more years to the retirement period, while sometimes adding fewer to the working period. As we move further into the 21st Century, these changes have led to several considerations to review now as we look forward to celebrating retirement, no matter how far down the road it might be.

1. Define what retirement means to you

For much of the 20th century, many Americans didn’t experience a long retirement period. Later, as retirement packages were extended, or due to corporate layoffs or sufficient savings, retirement came earlier than expected, and Americans could relax and “enjoy the good life”. However, many of today’s retirees are still struggling, even a decade after the Great Recession. A recent COUNTRY Financial Security Index®1 showed that more than a third of Illinoisans (36%) worry they either will not be able to retire or will need to delay retirement in the future. Retirement means different things for different individuals. As you think about your life after your current career, how will you remain active and engaged? What will you be retiring to?

2. Planning for your healthcare is healthy for you and your retirement

The Index also showed that Illinoisans report their top financial concern is affording healthcare costs (44 percent). We’re all using healthcare dollars, even if we’re healthy. A good rule of thumb is to strive to keep healthcare expenses to about 12% of your annual spending amount.

3. The impact of moving in(to) retirement

During much of the 1900s, families were less dispersed. As families spread apart, many retirees headed seemingly automatically for warmer climates. But with longer lives, and sometimes not as healthy as we’d like, does it make sense to live closer to family? Or if you do decide to move - will the area you choose allow you to remain engaged, stay active, and have access to quality healthcare?

4. Force your debt to retire before you do

With student loans, credit card debt and healthcare issues, we’re likely to be carrying more debt into retirement than prior generations. Few would want to spend their retirement reconsidering poor decisions. Seek assistance now with budgeting, debt consolidation, reverse mortgages or other means to reduce the debt burden.

It’s a brave new world out there. Don’t forget to consider recognizing the increasing risk of retirement. A financial professional should assist you sooner rather than later. To get started, take control of what you can. Save as much as you can, as early as you can. Monitor your spending, have a budget and stick to it. The future you save might be your own.

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