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How to Build a Retirement Plan

Creating a retirement plan that fits your budget and timeline is easier than you might think. Here's how to get started.

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How to Build a Retirement Plan

A recent survey revealed that 4 out of every 10 Americans don't believe they'll ever be able to afford to retire.1 But this pervasive belief may be too pessimistic.

Even if your retirement account balances are behind schedule, there are some concrete steps you can take now to shore up your retirement assets and help get you started on a solid plan for retirement.

Determine Your Retirement Goals

There's no one-size-fits-all plan for retirement, or, a "magic number" everyone must reach to be able to afford to retire. After all, someone whose retirement plans include international travel and lots of charitable gifting is likely to have a much greater financial need than someone who wants to stick closer to home and pursue inexpensive hobbies.

Your own retirement plan should be based on your future goals.

  • At what age do you want to retire?
  • Do you plan to continue working part-time after retiring from a full-time position?
  • How much monthly or annual income will you need in retirement to cover your expenses?
  • What leisure activities do you want to pursue in retirement?
  • What healthcare options will be available to you in retirement?
  • If you're married, how does your spouse's retirement plan line up with yours?
  • How long do you expect to need your retirement money to last?
  • How much are you able to and/or do you plan to save for retirement?

Answering these questions will give you a better idea of what you'd like your retirement to look like—and how much you'll need to save to get there.

Determine Where You Currently Stand

It's important to know what assets you currently have at your disposal. When gathering information about your retirement accounts, don't forget about any 401(k)s or other retirement accounts that you might have forgotten to roll over from a former employer.

Those who have paid taxes into Social Security should also check their annual Social Security statement at to ensure their reported earnings are accurate.2 This statement can let you know how much you can expect to earn at full retirement age (67), as well as how much you'd earn if you become disabled before retirement and file for Social Security Disability benefits.1

Even if the answer to where your retirement assets stand isn't what you'd like it to be, there are adjustments you can make, from increasing your retirement age to sharing retirement expenses with other loved ones or boosting the amount you're currently saving.

Investment Strategies and Rate of Return

One of the key factors in pursuing your retirement goals isn't how much you contribute to your retirement accounts, but how these accounts are invested.

Contributing $12,000 per year for 15 years at a one percent rate of return won't get you much further ahead of where you would be if you contributed just half that amount—or $6,000 per year—for the same time period at a higher rate of return of eight percent. (In this example, the first investor would have just over $193,000, while the second investor would have around $151,000).3

This can mean that if you're running a little behind schedule in your retirement accounts, the answer may not be as simple as "contribute more." Instead, you should also check that your contributions and balances are invested in a way that will provide you with a path toward your desired rate of return. Though there are no guarantees in the world of investing, a financial advisor can work with you to help allocate your assets in a way that makes the most sense for you.

Talk to a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors with BECU Investment Services are here to help. Our team will take time to get to know you, understand your goals and plan and implement a financial strategy that's appropriate for you. Set up a complimentary consultation or call 206-439-5720.

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