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Your ultimate retirement planning guide

Allen Wastler

Posted on March 24, 2023

Allen Wastler is a former financial journalist with over 30-years of experience, including time at CNBC, CNN, and Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Ultimate retirement guide
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Lay out important steps to take in planning for retirement early in your lifetime.

List the actions and safeguards you need to consider as your retirement approaches.

Note the money moves and lifestyle adjustments you may need to take once you are in retirement.

How do you get to a comfortable retirement? It’s a journey. And like any other trip, it’s easier if you have a map or GPS to help you get there. Here’s an overall guide with links to information and expositions on specific retirement issues.

Planning for retirement, early

The first step in any trip is figuring out where you want to go. With retirement planning, that means determining what kind of nest egg you think you’ll need, given your lifestyle and goals for your retirement years. This calculator will help you determine that: Retirement Calculator

Along with those numbers comes the recognition that there are some uncomfortable truths about retirement.

Early years 20s –30s: The earlier you start saving, the more wealth you are likely to amass as a result of basic math, tax advantages, and historic investment returns.

Unfortunately, many people put off investing, especially in their early years. Indeed, about two out of three 21- to 32-year-olds haven’t started saving for retirement.1 More often than not, it is because of the need to pay off existing debt like student loans (When student loan and 401(k) compete) or difficulty with budgeting priorities (How to be on a budget: The essentials).

Later years, 40s – 50s: There are options to prioritize retirement savings in later years, though. These include making catch-up contributions to tax-advantaged retirement accounts, reducing fixed expenses, and creating an additional income stream to fortify your nest egg.

Retiring early: Of course, there are those who don’t want to wait for the typical time of retirement, 65 years of age or so, to start enjoying the retirement lifestyle. They have options too.

Approaching retirement

Most people start considering retirement in their 60s. But actually taking the step isn’t an instant process. Beyond paperwork requirements for retirement account and tax purposes, there are final considerations about Social Security and longevity possibilities to consider as well.

Resource planning: Once retirement is in sight, there are certain steps to take. These include organizational moves involving your retirement accounts and resources.

Social Security: For most Americans, Social Security is a vital part of retirement security. It takes planning, however, to understand the mechanics of the Social Security program and how it can fit into your planning. In some cases, that can even mean delaying benefits.

Longevity considerations: Life spans are getting longer on average and sometimes that can have an impact on existing plans and future circumstances.

Annuities: In terms of longevity considerations, annuities are becoming a consideration for more and more people. Indeed, recent moves by Congress are introducing annuities as options in some retirement plans.

In retirement

Finally, actually being in retirement requires some attention too. With hope, prior planning has eased this situation somewhat. Still, as you age and circumstances change, there may be various issues to address.

Your nest egg: Obviously, you need to protect what you have worked so hard to build, especially since the opportunity to rebuild any losses are limited. So managing resources and protecting wealth should be a priority.

Health care: As people get older, their associated medical costs tend to rise. Projecting those expenses accurately and factoring in health insurance coverage is important.

Real estate: Since a home is a major asset, if not the major asset, for many retirees, questions often arise about the best way to use it. The answer isn’t always the same from person to person.

Lifestyle: Living arrangements and lifestyle changes are also a major consideration in retirement years. Here, too, personal preference and circumstance will differ by individual.

Legacy: And, of course, there are issues of managing one’s estate and legacy.

Obviously, given the breadth of issues and considerations over time, retirement planning can be a significant process, depending on one’s preferences and circumstances. Many people turn to a financial professional to help advise them through the choices.

But a first step is understanding what to plan for.

Discover more from MassMutual…

Retirement planning: What women do right

Working with a professional vs. going solo

Baseball and longevity


National Institute on Retirement Security, “New Research Finds 95 Percent of Millennials Not Saving Adequately for Retirement,” Feb. 27, 2018.

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The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.