National Retirement Planning Week (April 8-12) offers a great opportunity to discuss what consumers tend to get wrong about investing. Over the next few days, I’ll discuss three common mistakes that I see as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and, more importantly, how to correct them. The first common mistake is discussed below.
Course Correction #1: Set goals today and create your plan.
Let’s be honest, setting long-term financial goals can be hard. Why? It’s hard to have a clear vision of some far off event and, as a result, without a clear goal we don’t know where or how best to start. If this resonates with you, don’t worry. You are normal. We are never formally trained in the ways of financial planning. Not to mention, psychologically, our brains trip us up as we unconsciously find it easier to spend money today (i.e. enjoy life) than to save for some goal that is many years away and hard to define.
If we apply this specifically to retirement planning, we often do not set retirement savings goals for three reasons.
Number one: Retirement is a future event that is hard to visualize. Because we cannot see it, like a new car or a new home, it is hard to commit our hard earned money to it.
Number two: We don’t know how much we will need. When we don’t know the goal, it becomes hard to know how much we NEED to save today.
Number three: We are unaware of important details about our cash flow. This makes it difficult to identify how much we CAN save.
Because we lack clarity about these aspects, we often take no action at all. To borrow a phrase many members of Generation X might recognize from the old “G.I. Joe” cartoons, “Knowing is half the battle.” Knowing what financial resources are available to us today plus an understanding of how much we need to save, empowers us to take action. The other half of the equation? Maybe you guessed it, taking action. So what can we do?
- Set a goal. Know how much you need to save. Not sure where to start? As a rule of thumb, it is generally recommended to have at least 10 to 12 times your current income saved at retirement. I am not a fan of “rules of thumb” so I recommend sitting down with a CFP® Professional that can help find the right goal for you.
- Create a budget. I know, budget is an ugly word, but it is important to understand the resources available to save for future goals. And I recommend spending what is left AFTER you save for your goals. We often spend first and then save.
- Build a plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple. Focus on what you can do in the next six or twelve months. The key is to get started and then adjust as time goes on.
And here is my personal money mantra that keeps me on track. Keep it simple, make it balanced, give it purpose. Start with a small step. Balance your priorities (everything in moderation). Focus on what matters most to you.
Ready to get going? Schedule your intro call with Facet Wealth today.
Keep an eye out Thursday for Part 2 of this National Retirement Planning Week article series, which will discuss how consumers often make the mistake of not investing early enough to reap the full benefits of compound interest.
Brent Weiss is the co-founder and head of planning at Facet Wealth, a next-generation financial services company offering financial planning and advice to consumers.