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Are You on Track for Retirement? Here's How to Know

By Maurie Backman - Aug 23, 2020 at 11:52AM

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Here's how to tell if you're heading in the right direction as far as your senior years go.

Many people worry about whether they'll have enough money in retirement to live comfortably and pursue the goals they set for themselves. If you're curious as to how you're doing with regard to retirement planning, here are four sure signs that you're heading in the right direction.

1. You've set up a retirement budget

It's hard to know whether you're saving adequately for retirement if you don't know what your senior years are likely to cost you. To that end, it helps to think about where you want to live in retirement, what type of home you want to own or rent, and how you intend to spend your days. Buying an apartment in a major city and spending three months of the year traveling is going to cost you a lot more than it will to settle down in a modest condo in a smaller city and spend the bulk of your time enjoying local entertainment. Think about what you want your senior years to look like and map out a budget so you can see what your annual income needs will entail.

Smiling older man and woman embracing outdoors

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2. You've come up with a plan for claiming Social Security

Figuring out when to claim Social Security is tricky. File too early, and you'll slash your benefits for life. File too late, and you'll risk missing out on certain goals or opportunities because you waited so long to access that money. But either way, it's important to land on a decision, as that will dictate what your monthly benefits look like. And remember, unlike your retirement savings plan, whose balance can fluctuate over time depending on how your investments perform, the benefit you start out collecting from Social Security is the same benefit you're guaranteed for life (not counting annual cost-of-living adjustments, of course).

3. You've researched your healthcare costs

Healthcare is the one expense that tends to catch seniors off-guard. Though it's impossible to predict exactly what healthcare will amount to for you, Fidelity estimates that the average 65-year-old woman retiring today can expect to spend $155,000 on it throughout retirement, while the average 65-year-old male can expect to spend $140,000. If your health is terrific, you may find that healthcare costs you a bit less. If your health is poor, you might spend more. But either way, it pays to do your research so you understand how much money to allocate to taking care of your health.

4. You're consistently saving a respectable portion of your income

It used to be the case that setting aside 10% of your income in an IRA or 401(k) would be enough to buy you a secure retirement. Not anyone. These days, you're better off socking away 15% to 20% of your earnings (or more) to help ensure that you're able to keep up with inflation and cover all of your eventual needs. If you're currently saving a smaller amount, percentage wise, then it may be time to look at your expenses and find ways to free up more cash for your nest egg.

The knowledge that you're on track for retirement could buy you the peace of mind so many older workers crave. If you don't think you're on track for retirement, take steps to change that so you don't want up disappointed once your time in the workforce eventually comes to a close.

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