Knowing when and how to start saving for retirement, the differences between Roth and traditional IRAs and the importance of a diverse investment portfolio can make all the difference when it comes to being financially prepared for your future. Below, Navy Federal Financial Group's investment and retirement advisor Marnie Hagberg answers a few of your most common investment questions.

Q: When is a good time to start saving for retirement?

A: Any time is a good time to save for retirement. First, check with your employer to see if your company offers a retirement savings plan that will match your contributions. Be sure to ask about the vesting period – the length of time you must stay with the organization before you can leave and take the employer's match with you. If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, start contributing to a Roth or traditional IRA. See below.

Q: What's the difference between a traditional and a Roth IRA?

A: The main difference between these two retirement accounts is when you pay income taxes on the money you contribute. With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes up front, and it will grow tax-free so you'll never have to pay taxes on the growth of your retirement, nor will you have to take required minimum distributions on it. So your future distributions are tax-free as long as you meet certain requirements. With a traditional IRA, you only pay taxes when you withdraw the money. This way, you can lower your taxable income which will potentially help lower your tax bracket. While that money will grow tax-deferred, you can continue to contribute to it as long as you're below age 70½ and are earning income. Both offer tax breaks, but have different income eligibility and withdrawal rules. Find more details on the two plans.

Q: Should I have emergency savings set aside before I begin investing in a retirement plan?

A: In general, experts recommend setting aside enough money to live on for three to six months. This will give you a cushion should you lose your job or encounter a health or other emergency. The fund should be liquid, meaning you should be able to access the money quickly when you need it. Once you have your emergency account set, you can begin to invest in your future.

Q: What is asset allocation and why is it important?

A: Asset allocation is a term that refers to how your assets are divided among different investment categories, such as stocks, bonds and cash accounts. It also refers to the strategy of having this variety in your investment portfolio to balance your risks and returns and protect you against fluctuations in individual asset categories. Figuring out how to allocate your assets into different categories can be tricky. You first need to assess your risk tolerance. Are you willing to lose money on investments in the short term for the possibility of a greater financial award in the future? A Navy Federal Financial Group advisor can help you decide.

Q: How do I know when I've saved enough to retire?

A: As a general rule, you should have 80 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income in retirement to maintain your lifestyle. However, each person's retirement needs are different, so a retirement calculator can help you determine if you're on the right track. For more help assessing your individual retirement needs, consult a Navy Federal Financial Group advisor. No matter how you choose to invest your money, Navy Federal can help you navigate the often confusing world of investing and retirement saving as you prepare for a strong financial future.

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This article 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.