By Essie Landry
Succulent turkey. Savory stuffing. Green bean casserole. Sweet potato and pumpkin pie. Every family has its Thanksgiving dinner traditions. With a carefully followed recipe, everyone around the table can enjoy their favorite dishes.
If you plan poorly and wait to throw the bird in the oven at the last minute, you will end up with a turkey of a dish. The same can be said for financial planning and preparing for retirement. Follow the perfect recipe and you’ll be rewarded with a juicy retirement.
Ingredients: one part Social Security earnings, one part savings, a pinch of planning.
First, start your retirement casserole with a visit to the Retirement Estimator. As useful as a food processor, the Estimator gives you an instant projection of what you can expect to receive in retirement benefits. Just plug in some simple information and the Estimator uses your past earnings and estimated future earnings to project about how much you’ll get when you retire. Like an experienced cook, you can experiment with the recipe and plug in different future earnings and retirement dates until it’s just the way you want it.
Next, fold in the savings. The earlier you begin, the better off you will be. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of the average worker’s pre-retirement earnings. Most financial advisors say you will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. To supplement Social Security you also will need savings, investments, pensions, or retirement accounts to make sure you have enough money to enjoy retirement. Visit the Ballpark Estimator for tips to help you save at www.choosetosave.org/ballpark.
If you have a pension from your employer or a 401k, IRA or similar retirement fund, be sure to add that into the mix.
Like to taste as you cook? Then you’ll want to set up a My Social Security account so you can log in anytime to check your reported earnings and projected benefit estimates. If something doesn’t taste just right – if your earnings are reported incorrectly or you find you need to save more to meet your retirement goals – there’s still time to make corrections before your retirement casserole is done.
Once you’ve added the ingredients of Social Security earnings, personal savings, and any pensions you may have, it’s time to let the retirement casserole bake.
If you pull the retirement casserole out to find it a little underdone, just put it back in for a bit longer. Delaying retirement can increase your benefits and give you more time to build up your savings. To learn more, read our publication entitled “When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.” It provides helpful information regarding the things you should consider when making a decision on when to collect retirement benefits. You will find it, along with our other useful publications, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
When the retirement casserole is ready, enjoy it! You deserve a comfortable retirement. Following a traditional Thanksgiving recipe carefully can ensure a satisfying meal. In the same way, following our financial planning recipe will help you achieve a more fulfilling retirement. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.