(BPT) - American workers, ages 32 to 64, are $6.6 trillion short of the amount they need in order to retire comfortably, according to Retirement USA. When it comes to planning ahead and saving money early, time is of the essence. However, 63 percent of American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement, and only 44 percent of workers have even tried to calculate a retirement plan, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. This means that fewer than half of working Americans have a set plan for how they'll get by financially after leaving the workplace.
Judging by these numbers, you're not alone if you feel overwhelmed with the retirement planning process. You might not even think you need to start yet. But by educating yourself now and creating a plan years in advance, you can ensure a smooth transition from your workplace to your happy place.
Build your budget
Saving for retirement can be tricky but starting early will enable you to save substantially more long-term thanks to compounding interest. It's important to keep in mind both your pre-and post-retirement salaries when you begin to develop a budget. The U.S. Department of Labor suggests starting by determining your net worth - the total value of your assets minus the amount of your debt. You want this number to be positive so that your assets are worth more than your debt. But even a negative number can be a good starting point to help you begin the process of paying down debt.
Next, you'll need to figure out how much of your salary to contribute to reach your personal retirement goal. There are many online tools to help you determine what you need to save now and it's important to also create a monthly expense budget that shows where your funds are going. This way, you don't have to live frugally with the money you've saved - just wisely.
The more money you make, the more you're able to save for retirement. Most employers will match your contributions in a 401k plan up to a certain percentage, so be sure to take advantage of this - it's essentially free money you don't want to miss out on. Also, try saving an additional one-to-two percent of your salary as bonuses, raises and promotions come along. Avoid borrowing money out of your retirement plan. Even though surprise events may occur, resist the temptation and avoid the tax implications and other potential costs that can pile up when you take out money prematurely.
An estimated 58 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured when it comes to life insurance, according to LIMRA.
'Many people view life insurance only as a way to take care of final expenses, but it offers so much more than that in terms of building financial security for your Golden Years because it can help supplement your retirement income,' says Erie Insurance senior vice president Mike Plazony.
For example, while many workplaces offer savings plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs, withdrawals from pretax retirement savings plans are taxable - even after death. On the flip side, life insurance death benefits may be tax-free and interest and cash generated from a permanent life insurance policy are typically tax-deferred, meaning you can wait to pay taxes on the interest until you actually use the funds. Plazony recommends consulting with a professional financial planner who can provide you with information on the tax advantages of life insurance policies, including tax-free life insurance death benefits. While benefits through your company may have income restrictions, permanent life policies and annuities are not subject to income restrictions, allowing you to select an amount of premium of your choosing regardless of your income.
It's important to take control of your life insurance and continually adjust it, as your plan won't stay consistent throughout your entire life. You'll need to modify it based on certain life experiences, such as having children. Talk to your insurance agent to regularly review your life insurance to make sure you have the coverage you need based on your circumstances at the time, and that you aren't overpaying or underpaying.
Focus on the future
Don't wait until it's too late to start planning for your retirement. Have a clear idea about what you wish to accomplish and start working toward those goals now. The ultimate goal is to reward yourself for working hard over the years, so you can enjoy the ride in retirement.