The biggest planning mistake most people make is not realizing how much retirement will cost and how much money they will need. Fortunately, those who remember a few principles and use today's low-cost technology can substantially reduce the margin of error.
Surveys of future retirees abound. An interesting survey from Merrill Lynch found that 42% of Baby Boomers do not know how much money they will need to live comfortably in retirement. That is a key point because surveys of those already retired reveal that those who did some kind of retirement planning were better prepared financially than those who did no forecasts.
There are many ways to do some basic retirement planning in addition to taking the time and expense of meeting with a financial planner. There are books and other materials available through most 401(k) plans, mutual funds, and other financial service firms. There also are a number of web sites that offer retirement calculators, many of them free, some for a fee.
No matter which approach you use to plan for retirement, keep in mind that retirement planning is not science. It is an art. There are different methods for estimating retirement spending, and assumptions are used in each method. Do not simply accept the estimate generated. Understand how it was developed and its limits.
Here are the key principles to keep in mind...
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