3 Simple Steps For Your Retirement GPSSubmitted by Moneywatch Advisors on September 21st, 2021
I recently read about a 28-year old New Jersey man who typed the wrong address into his rental car’s GPS in Iceland and drove six hours in the wrong direction – SIX! – from the airport to a fishing village in the north of the country….when he was just trying to get to his hotel. Now, his first mistake is quite understandable. I’ve been to Iceland and they are apparently too cheap to buy a vowel because every word is virtually unpronounceable. But, despite the long drive and “poor road conditions” he plowed on because that’s, ahem, what the GPS told him. And he never questioned that Reykjavik’s airport would be 6 hours from, well, Reykjavik. That’s like assuming Lexington’s airport is in Detroit.
This was really quite funny until I realized how many people figuratively make this same mistake in their financial lives. Unfortunately, they assume they’re on the right road until told otherwise. Maybe they assume contributing just enough to their employer’s retirement plan to receive the match will eventually produce enough to support them in retirement. Or maybe they assume their employer is selecting their investments in their workplace retirement plan.
To complete the comparison with our Icelandic mis-adventurer, it is quite common for people to be on the wrong road but not know it until they’ve hit a destination that’s figuratively six hours from their desired destination. Only, the stakes are much higher if you don’t realize your mistake until you hit age 60.
Here are some suggestions for getting on the right road:
- Pay yourself first
Automate your contributions to your employer’s retirement plan and any other investment plans first. Then, develop your budget from what’s left. How many times have you heard that cutting out that daily latte will aid your retirement? No, I like that latte, you say. So, don’t make the choice between your financial freedom and your latte. Pay toward your financial freedom first, then choose between a latte and maybe a beer that evening. That approach is not only better for your long-term financial health but you’ll feel a lot less guilty each day too.
- Pay down high-interest debt
Not all debt is equal and not all debt is bad. In general, if all of your debt – student loans, mortgage, car loan or lease, credit card debt – is more than 36% of your gross monthly income, that’s too much. Additionally, if a loan has a high interest rate – probably about 5-6% or higher – that should be taken care of too. If you find yourself in one of those situations, make a plan to retire that debt as soon as you can and automate your payments so you don’t have to choose between making that debt payment and your daily latte.
- Look at all your retirement accounts as one portfolio
If you and your husband both have retirement accounts, do you ever compare them to see how they’re invested together? For instance, of the total, how much do you both have invested in bond mutual funds, large company mutual funds, international mutual funds, etc.? Your retirement accounts should be working together and, combined, should be diversified so one type of investment can zig when the others zag.
Steve Byars, CFP®