6 Myths About Saving for Retirement

With just 14% of workers saying they are confident in their retirement plan, it's time for most of us to kick saving into high gear. It's doable if you can get past these 6 myths about saving.

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Retirement confidence is at an all-time low. Just 14% of workers say they are very confident they will have enough savings to retire comfortably, according to an Employee Benefits Research Institute survey. Yet relatively few are doing much about it.

Many workers report having virtually no savings and most (60%) say the total value of their household’s savings and investments, excluding their primary home, is less than $25,000. More than half have never even tried to calculate how much money they’ll need in retirement. The preferred solution: 37% in the EBRI Retirement Confidence Survey said they expect to work past age 65, up from just 11% who said that 20 years ago.

(MORE: How Companies Misfire on Flexible Schedules for Older Workers)

No doubt: Saving is difficult—doubly so in a tough economy. But if you want to enjoy a happy ending you have to get over this hump and start putting away some money. To help, TD Ameritrade identifies six crippling myths about retirement saving:

  • A 401(k) plan is all I need Employer sponsored plans, especially those with a matching contribution, are a good start. But those who also have a traditional IRA tend to be more confident about their future. You should have an emergency fund that is easy to access, and by adding a Roth IRA and taxable investment account you will have more flexibility in dealing with tax issues.
  • My kids’ tuition comes first Uh-uh. Your kids can borrow to go to college. No, it’s not perfect. But they have a lifetime to pay it back, and you can help later on if you are well situated. It’s more important to start saving now for your retirement security. The extra years of compound growth can be a game saver.
  • Planning retirement is impossible It takes a little effort, yes. But calculating your needs is doable. Determine your likely assets at retirement. Then figure out how much income they will produce including a 4% (plus inflation) annual drawdown of your account balances. Set that against your expected expenses. Start with this easy calculator.
  • I need to pay off my debts first This might be the right strategy if your debts are on high-interest credit cards and you can pay them off in a few months and then keep them in check. But most people don’t have that kind of discipline. A better strategy is to tackle both your debts and your retirement savings at the same time. That way you’ll be getting an early start on your long-term savings goal and allowing time for compound returns to work. Besides, you’ll probably be working at least part-time in retirement and will have the ability to service some debt.
  • It’s too early to start saving You know that’s not the case. Say you start saving $150 a month at age 20 and your same-age friend puts off saving to age 30, at which time she starts saving $200 a month. By the time you are both 60 you’ll have invested identical dollar amounts: $72,000. But you will have $372,827; your friend will have just $235,213 (assuming average annual returns of 7%). That difference of 58% is entirely due to your earlier start.
  • It’s too late to start saving That’s never the case. If you are getting a late start you’ll have more trouble reaching your goals. But past the age of 50 you can take advantage of an additional $5,500 a year of “catch-up” savings in a tax-favored account. And by working a little longer and delaying Social Security benefits you may still fashion a suitable retirement income plan.

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