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When I was in my twenties I saw retirement as something that happened to others. Now that I´m in my fifties, I still think of retirement as something that happens to others. I love what I do for a living -writing and communicating. I don’t see myself ever retiring.
However, I’m not naïve and I know that I should have a plan for some kind of a retirement income when I’m fifteen to twenty years older. After all, I may not be as energetic as I am now, I could fall ill, or simply feel like taking it easy.
I must confess that I’m not really good at financial planning, even less so for a season of my life I am not exactly wanting to rush into. However, reading Consumer Reports´ recent feature on retirement planning helped me feel more informed and less anxious about the whole thing.
I have always been self-employed and/or a freelancer. I have never been on a payroll or enjoyed corporate benefits of any kind, to include a company’s 401(k) plan. I also went through a tough time that coupled unemployment and divorce in 2009. It left me in such bad shape that I was on welfare for a year. This means that I need to make a real effort to catch up with people my age who did start saving for retirement when they were younger.
In 1983, when I was 20, 56% of American workers, and 80% of those making $20,000 or more a year, could expect to receive an employer-provided retirement pension, according to the Social Security Administration.
Things have changed a lot since then. Today, only a quarter of working Americans—most of them union members—have the security of a pension, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pensions have been replaced by workplace-based savings plans, such as 401(k)s, which shift a lot of the burden to the employee instead of resting on the employer.
My husband and I have a blended family of five and we’re both self-employed. Earlier this year he had to prematurely withdraw some money from his 401(k) to cover some unexpected expenses. Our cars both bit the dust, and our water heater had to be replaced, along with the pool pump. I had a few medical bills that added up to quite a bit. Bottom line is that he paid a hefty fine for withdrawing money early.
My sister recently divorced at 51. She sought counsel to manage her 401(k), because as most people, she did not fully understand how to manage it. She is not alone in this. I recommended she read Consumer Reports’ piece on Five 401(k) mistakes you can´t afford to keep making.
Still, I won´t despair. If you are like me, just a few years away from retirement age, we still have time to grasp the new realities, implement the strategies outlined by the articles I linked to above by Consumer Reports, and create a more secure retirement.
3 Resources to help you plan your retirement
I know it´s much easier for me to focus on subjects I don´t enjoy when they’re in bullet-points, so here I will share with you some resources that are really helpful to plan for retirement.
- Check out this table to check out how much you can target to save for your retirement if you want to maintain your current lifestyle.
- Take the Consumer Reports’ Retirement Planning Quiz to see how much you know about planning for retirement.
- Visit Consumer Reports´ Retirement Planning Guide, where you will find expert advice on everything that is conducive to a good retirement: planning; maintaining your health; identifying activities and work to suit you; and, of course, being a savvy consumer.
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