3 Obstacles to a Comfortable Retirement You Might Face | Smart Change: Personal Finance:

(Maurie Backman)

If you’re actively making an effort to save and plan for retirement, then you clearly want to do what you can to ensure that your senior years are comfortable and devoid of financial stress. But if you’re not careful, these obstacles might get in your way — and make it so your retirement looks very different than the one you imagined.

1. Debt:

The more debt you take on, the more money you’ll spend on interest. That holds true whether you’re talking about a more affordable type of loan, like a mortgage, or a more expensive kind, like credit card debt.

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If you’re still carrying a lot of debt in your 50s, it can be especially detrimental to your retirement savings, because that’s when catch-up contributions start to kick in for 401(k) plans and IRAs. So it’s best to either avoid debt in the first place, or try to dig your way out of it quickly once you’ve racked up your share.

2. Conservative investments

The value of money tends to erode over time due to inflation, so you need your nest egg to outpace it to maintain a solid level of purchasing power in retirement. But if you invest your savings too conservatively, that may not happen.

Rather than go heavy on bonds during your 20s, 30s, and 40s, take the opportunity to load up on stocks. While they may be more volatile, they’re also more likely to deliver the returns you need to grow your money substantially.

This doesn’t, however, mean you have to start hand-picking stocks if that’s not a route you’re comfortable with. Instead, you can fall back on index funds, which minimize some of your risk by letting you invest in the broad market rather than taking the chance on individual businesses.

3. Misjudging Social Security

Many people assume that once they retire, Social Security will cover a substantial portion of their senior living costs. In reality, those benefits will only replace about 40% of your pre-retirement wages, and most seniors need about twice that much money to avoid having to make spending cuts and big lifestyle changes.

It’s important to be realistic about what Social Security will pay you so you know to save appropriately. In fact, it’s a good idea to create an account on the Social Security Administration’s website and access your most recent annual earnings statement. That statement should contain an estimate of your future monthly benefit so you have some idea of ​​what to expect.

Of course, if you’re in your twenties, the estimate you get may not be so spot-on, since it may not effectively account for future wage growth. But the more years in the workforce you’ve already put in, the more accurate that estimate is likely to be.

You deserve a retirement that’s meaningful and free of financial stress. If you do your best to avoid or minimize debt, invest your nest egg aggressively, and read up on Social Security, you can achieve that goal and enjoy your senior years to the fullest.

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