Retirement can mean very different things depending on where we are in life. For the 20-something just starting a military career, retirement is a far-off prospect—there’s a long way to go and a lot to do before you can hang it up. For the 60-something Veteran, however, it’s right around the corner. In the words of the immortal Ferris Bueller, “Life comes at you fast.”
No matter where you are in your own personal journey, ask yourself: Are you on a path to retirement readiness? The answer depends on what you’re doing today to ensure your Golden Years are exactly what you want them to be.
To do that, consider the 4 ps: Picture, Plan, Partner and Prepare.
Picture: The Road to Retirement
Most people think retirement readiness is about having the financial stability and independence you'll need to live comfortably through the end of your days. That's true—but to get there, you'll need to stay focused on that goal from the moment you enlist until the day you retire. And, most importantly, know that how you approach saving, investing and wealth-building will change depending on where you are in your journey.
The beginning of your journey is all about investing in yourself: enlisting, going to school, starting a career, paying down debt and, ultimately, creating a strong foundation for personal growth.
As you settle down, maybe start a family and save money, your focus shifts toward the future. You contribute to your retirement accounts, invest wisely and start to think about a time when military service and work aren’t central in your life. Then, as you approach retirement, managing your wealth becomes your new focus.
Retirement readiness is a mindset. What matters is that you’re always picturing your destination and you’re planning for the road ahead.
Plan: Create the Future You Want to Enjoy
Lots of people think about retirement planning as a purely financial practice. And while saving and investing are major parts of retirement planning, they’re driven by non-financial factors—namely, your life goals and accomplishments.
Are you someone who wants a big family? Do you love to travel the world? Is contributing to charitable organizations non-negotiable? The things that you value are the factors that shape your life—and your finances. How you plan for retirement comes down to prioritizing the costs of the life you want to live, both before and after you retire.
One of the first things any good financial advisor will do with clients is to sit down and talk—but not about money. They want to get a sense of what’s important to you, so they can help you plan for it. Just as form follows function, financial planning follows future planning.
Partner: An Expert Can Help Create Retirement Readiness
Speaking of a financial planner… do you need one? Really, it depends on how involved you want to be in retirement planning—or how confident you are in building your own plan. For many people, this is a question worth asking in the mid-to-later stages of their journey. There’s a lot you can do before you talk to an advisor, to get you on the right track:
- Consolidate and pay down debt, such as credit cards and loans.
- Automatically enroll in an employer-sponsored retirement plan—especially if they match!
- Develop good saving habits. Always commit part of your income to savings.
- Protect yourself (and your family) with insurance, including life insurance.
Many people decide to talk to an advisor when they begin to look for ways they can make their money work for them—like investing. While there are plenty of great personal investment tools out there, a fiduciary advisor can help you determine the best ways to invest based on your goals (and other factors, like age and risk tolerance). They can also be an incredible resource for Veterans and servicemembers who have extra retirement variables to consider (e.g., length of service or survivor benefits).
Whether you work with an advisor or create your own roadmap to retirement, keep your eyes on the future. How will what you do today serve you in retirement later on?
Prepare: Cement Your Legacy Beyond Retirement
Retiring may feel like crossing a finish line, but it doesn’t mean you can suddenly stop planning. Remember, “Life comes at you fast.” Managing your wealth in retirement means adapting to changes and continuing to plan ahead.
Do you need to set up a trust? Reallocate your portfolio based on shifting circumstances in your personal life or the market? Change your insurance beneficiaries? Financial planning is an ongoing exercise.
Thankfully, it’s one you’ll be comfortable with if you’ve adopted a retirement readiness mindset. The approach is the same; it’s the strategy that might change. Confidence in your financial planning will help you navigate retirement on financially stable footing. And, continuing your education at every age will only serve you in your actual retirement!
Again, whether you manage your own finances or choose to work with an advisor, your decisions should reflect the type of retirement you want to have. You’ve worked hard to get here!
Retirement Planning Starts Today
Retirement shouldn’t be spent wondering if you’ve saved enough or living on as little as possible. It’s a time for comfort, relaxation and peace of mind. Now’s the time to start planning for it.
It doesn’t matter how near or far you are to retirement, planning is critical. Don’t just contribute to a retirement account and call it a day—get active, stay engaged and be excited to create the future you want for yourself (and your loved ones). Tailor your financial decision-making around what’s most important, and carry that mindset all the way through retirement. When you focus on what matters, you’ll get a clear picture of how to plan for it financially.
Do you have a retirement readiness mindset?
- Book a complimentary consultation with a financial advisor to help you get started.
- Audit your personal finances and make sure that you’re consolidating debt, committing funds to savings and taking advantage of your employer’s 401(k) match if applicable!
- Make a list of your goals and priorities, no matter what stage of life you’re in. If you know you want to have a big family, how will that affect your retirement? If you know travel makes you feel alive, how can you set up your retirement to allow for maximum adventure?
Navy Federal Financial Group, LLC (NFFG) is a licensed insurance agency. Non-deposit investments, brokerage, and advisory products are only sold through Navy Federal Investment Services, LLC (NFIS), a member of FINRA/SIPC and an SEC-registered investment advisory firm. NFIS is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFFG. Insurance products are offered through NFFG and NFIS. These products are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guaranteed or obligations of Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU), are not offered, recommended, sanctioned, or encouraged by the federal government, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Deposit products and related services are provided by NFCU. Financial Advisors are employees of NFFG, and they are employees and registered representatives of NFIS. NFIS and NFFG are affiliated companies under the common control of NFCU. Call 1-877-221-8108 for further information.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.