Sometimes we just need a little shock to our system in order to get us moving. When it comes to retirement planning, for example, it's easy to just keep procrastinating. You may be making ends meet just fine right now, and thus, it's hard to imagine not doing so.

So permit me to offer you a peek into your future. Here are some common things that we might pay for, now and in the future. I'll list a typical price for today, followed by how much they will cost in 20 and 30 years, if they grow at inflation's long-term average rate of 3%.

 Item

Typical Cost Today

Possible Cost in 20 Years

Possible Cost in 30 Years

Large fancy coffee

$4

$7.24

$9.72

Hardcover book 

$30

$54.30

$72.90

Pack of cigarettes 

$6

$10.86

$14.58

Gallon of gas 

$3.60

$6.52

$8.75

Plane ticket

$300

$543

$729

New car

$20,000

$36,200

$48,600

Movie ticket 

$8

$14.48

$19.44

College, one year (for in-state, public colleges)

$22,000

$39,820

$53,460

Lawn care, one year

$1,500

$2,715

$3,645

Meal at restaurant 

$18

$32.58

$43.74

Here's the formula: to see what something will cost if it grows in value by 3% annually over 20 years, multiply by 1.81. For 30 years, multiply by 2.43. A glance at the table above should make it clear how important retirement planning is. Without taking the time for retirement planning, we may not realize that we could very likely be looking at price tags of nearly $10 for a cup of our favorite coffee treat in retirement, or at plane tickets that routinely cost more than $700.

It's more complicated
Of course, things are rarely simple. The table above is useful, but keep in mind that some items will rise in price at a rate much faster than inflation (as college costs and health care expenses have done in recent years), while others may rise more slowly. And your personal habits and preferences will make a big difference, too. You may never go out to the movies, but you may favor frequent high-end restaurant meals.

Retirement planning may not be as simple as stuffing extra bills into your savings account, but it's not rocket science, either. Well before you retire, spend a little time with a retirement calculator, which can model your particular situation. Spend time deciding how you want to allocate your long-term savings, and consider automating part of the process, to decrease the work for yourself.

Above all, if you think you're way behind where you should be, and that you're alone in not having given much thought to retirement planning, take heart. You're far from alone, and no matter your age, there are probably more than a few things you can do to create a more lovely retirement for yourself.

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