Investing is certainly enjoyable, but none of us socks away hard-earned moola just for the fun of it. No, we invest with goals in mind, both those of the shorter-term variety -- saving enough to buy a house or fund a child's college education, for example -- and for the big kahuna: a comfy retirement.
On both those fronts, every serious saver needs to answer two important questions: How much should I save and where should I invest it?
The Fool has you covered coming and going on that latter question. Our general asset-allocation rules are just a mouse-click (and a little scrolling) away, and once you've had a look at those, you'll be in a good position to begin divvying up your personalized pie chart.
You might, for instance, look to keep volatility under control by anchoring your portfolio with large-cap stalwarts such as Sysco
With those slices of the pie in place, intelligent asset allocators might then venture down the market cap ladder with long-haul retail overachievers like Ross Stores
Mutual funds and REITs can also play key roles in your asset-allocation game plan, of course. And as retirement draws near, fixed-income investments (i.e., bonds and/or bond funds) should pack considerable appeal, too.
Max out your savings
The Fool is chock-full of commentary and advice to help you allocate your assets, but determining the size of that pie is a different matter. That is, our other salient question -- how much to save -- is a highly individualized query, one that has to do with your lifestyle, your age, and the kind of post-work life you're looking to lead. Given those moving parts, it's a good thing the federal government has made it easy to go at least part of the way toward determining how much you should be saving. Really.
Right now, unless you're 50 or older, $4,000 is the maximum you can contribute to an IRA. (Once you hit the half-century mark, the Feds permit catch-up contributions, allowing you to kick in $4,500 for 2005 and $5000 in 2006.) What's more, if your company provides a 401(k), $15,000 is the new and improved IRS contribution limit for 2006. (With 401(k)s, the over-50 set is permitted to play catch up with an additional $5,000.)
But what if your company doesn't provide a 401(k) or limits the amount you can contribute? Or what if you're just looking for compelling savings ideas beyond no-brainers like tax-favored retirement accounts? Not to worry: The Fool has resources aplenty for you there, too.
For starters, there's our retirement center where, among other things, you can learn how to avoid pitfalls and preserve your nest egg. We also offer a slew of handy-dandy calculators, including one specifically designed to help you determine if you're saving enough dough for your dotage.
The personal touch
But if you're looking for a personal touch and a helping hand, take a look at my colleague Robert Brokamp's Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. In addition to planning tools and a world-class (and members-only) set of discussion boards, Robert weighs in with sharp retirement ideas in each monthly installment of the newsletter. He also gleans and shares insights from other smart folks. Indeed, an interview with Eric Tyson -- author of Personal Finance for Dummies and the new Mind Over Money -- is currently available for your perusal on the Rule Your Retirement website. Dave Barry has stopped by, too, providing both laughs and financial insights. Using these tools, you'll be able to answer both of those questions on saving for retirement.
If you'd like to take Rule Your Retirement for a spin -- a test-drive I highly recommend -- you're in luck: You can try it free for 30 days, a stretch of time you can use to determine if the service is for you.
Interested? Just click here to get started.
Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and doesn't own any of the securities mentioned. Sysco is an Income Investor pick, Family Dollar Stores is a Stock Advisor pick, Valero is a Hidden Gems pick, and Vodafone is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool has a strictdisclosure policy.