At what age do you want to retire?

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“Thank God it’s Friday!” “Oh, God it’s Monday!” These are expressions I hear quite often from working people. We all dream of the glorious day when we’ll clock out for the very last time. Imagine waking up when you’re good and ready. Imagine, vacationing when you’re good and ready. Imagine staying up to the crack of dawn just because you wanted to watch the sun rise. Imagine spending quality time with your loved ones and not being distracted by work-related proposals, deadlines, quotas, customer complaints and office politics. Have you dreamed of the life of leisure during your retirement days? At what age have you determined that you’ll hang up your working shoes?

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The best quote I’ve ever heard on retirement planning came from former heavy- weight boxing champion George Foreman. George said, “The question isn’t at ‘What age’ I want to retire it’s at ‘what income’ I want to retire.” George would know. He returned to boxing in his later 40s as well as reinvented his image as he began to endorse and sell various products including “The George Foreman Grill” because he had gone broke. Despite earning millions during his career, George had managed to spend all his money. He said that it’s easier to spend $1 million than it is to spend $500.

It’s possible but unlikely that we’ll earn the millions of dollars that George earned during his career. Most of us will earn over $1 million during our working career. A person earning an average of $35,000 per year over a 30-year working career will earn $1.05 million. With that kind of earning potential you can live the life of leisure and comfort during retirement. But you have to stop dreaming and start planning and saving. Or else, like George you’ll be forced to return to work because you managed to spend all your money as opposed to saving for your future.

According to the Employee Benefit research Institute, 68 percent of American workers feel they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement. But over 50 percent of the workers say their retirement savings is less than $25,000. Money Magazine reported that more than 50 percent of workers between the ages of 40-50 have less than $40,000 saved for retirement. Many of them were optimistic about having enough saved for retirement. You can live off a nest egg of $25,000 to $40,000 for about one or two years. Perhaps the people who are optimistic about saving enough for retirement with lackluster saving balances are planning to retire from life shortly after they retire from work. Don’t bank on it. The average woman retiring at age 65 is expected to live another 19.4 years. The average man retiring at age 65 is expected to live another 16.4 years. Advanced medical care is helping Americans live longer and longer. It’s becoming the norm for retirees to live another 25-30 years after they received their last paycheck. Not only should we save as much as we can for retirement, we need to plan to make our nest egg last a lifetime—up to 30 years. Speaking of advanced health care, it’s estimated that a retiree will need about $200,000 saved over and above what they saved for retirement to cover medical expenses. That’s excluding the cost of nursing home and/or home healthcare services, which is currently costing on average $70,000 per year.

With company-provided pensions on the brink of extinction and Social Security on the brink of insolvency, it’s up to YOU to save for YOUR retirement. Less than 20 percent of American workers are covered by a pension. More and more large, profitable well-known companies such as General Motors, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Sprint Nextel and Verizon have frozen their pension plans. Others are likely to follow suit. These large companies are opting to be more aggressive matching money you saved into a retirement plan as opposed to guaranteeing you a pension. Key point: You have to save toward your retirement before you receive anything from the company. By 2017 Social Security will be paying more out in Social Security benefits than what it’s receiving. By 2040, the Social Security Trust fund that is set up to cover the gap will be exhausted. At that point tax revenues will cover just 75 percent of promised benefits.

Contrary to the tone of this article, I’m not one of those doom and gloom, the sky is falling-type of financial columnist. My goal is inform you and hopefully, motivate you to take action. I’ll provide more tips on saving for retirement and making your savings last a lifetime in future columns. For now I simply want to get you thinking about the importance of saving for retirement.

I have listed some critical retirement planning questions you need to heed before you retire:

•How much will I need to cover my expenses and maintain the lifestyle I want during retirement?

•Where will this money come from?

•What can I do now to make sure I have enough saved for retirement?

•When will it be financially safe for me to retire?

•What investment mix and withdrawal rate will preserve my nest egg the longest?

•What saving and investment vehicles work best for my retirement saving goals?

•How can I keep medical-related costs from eroding my savings?

•Does it make sense to work longer to maximize my retirement savings and minimize my need to tap into my savings early?

•Where do I plan to live during retirement?

•Now that I’m an empty nester, do I need this large home?

Remember, the question isn’t at “what age” I want to retire, it’s at “what income.”

(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is the owner of ACE Financial. Sign up for Damon’s FREE online “Ask Damon” e-Newsletter @ http://www.allcreditexperts.com. Damon can be reached @ 412-856-1183.)

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