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Why Your Plan for Retirement Should Start Now

Kristen Campbell  |  December 20, 2022

The pandemic shifted how some people think about their golden years, from when they want to retire to what they want to do.

The pandemic didn’t just change our day-to-day lives. According to a new survey, it shifted our thinking on a range of issues, including when we want to retire and what we want to do with our time. 

Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults (ages 35 to 70) surveyed by Human Interest, a provider of retirement plans, said their pandemic experience changed their thoughts/decisions about how they save for retirement what they want to do when they retire. Meanwhile, 29 percent said the experience changed when they want to retire, with 25 percent noting they will or have retired earlier than planned. Another 45 percent say they will or have retired later than they planned. 

So, what does that mean for us moving forward?

Retirement Planning Basics

While the survey illuminated a host of hopes for retirement, from improving health and fitness to running for political office, just 27% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement: “I am confident I will have enough money to live comfortably and last through retirement as long as I live.” For women, that number dropped to 22 percent. 

Erin McInrue Savage, Director of Brand & Content at Human Interest, notes a survey finding that “women are one and a half times more likely to say they never talk about retirement savings with their friends or family. They’re just as likely as men when it comes to talking like once a month with their spouse, but when it comes to something beyond that immediate financial planning bubble, it’s a little bit hush-hush.”

So if you’re among those who’ve avoided those conversations in the past, know that you’re not alone. Also know that you can do something about it – starting now. 

  • Knowledge is power. Women can’t afford mistakes, says Cindy Hounsell, president of the Washington D.C. based Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to improve opportunities for women to secure retirement income and to educate the public about the inequities that disadvantage women in retirement. If they’re working in a job where there are benefits, she says, “they better know every single thing that they can get.”
  • Live within (or below) your means. Women need to become really knowledgeable about their income and know what they have, Hounsell says, noting not to underestimate what will be needed in the future.
  • Know what to expect from Social Security. Set up your My Social Security account so you know what your benefits supposedly will be, Hounsell says, noting that you will need savings to supplement that “in a big way.”  
  • Take care of yourself. “Try to stay as healthy as you can,” says Hounsell, who notes that’s usually worth getting lower costs in your healthcare. 
  • Study. Learn some basic investment strategies, Hounsell says, especially if you’re at a workplace where you have a 401(k). “You want to be in the right funds for you,” she says.  
  • Keep going. “Plan on working longer,” Hounsell says.If you’re living longer, you need to be planning for longer.” 
  • Pace yourself. Recognize that while retirement marks a significant financial, professional and social shift, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Sixty-nine percent of respondents in the study  “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “Retirement is a gradual change away from full-time paid work. It doesn’t mean a complete stop, or a full transition to leisure.”

Savage defines this transitional stage of life between full-time work and full-time retirement as “pretirement.” She says she thinks identifying a new life stage where there is a transition creates new opportunities to talk about how people might make the switch or what their goals might be in their retirement years. The framing around transitions opens up a new opportunity for not just talking about where you want to be at the finish line, but a path for how you get there, she adds.

In other words, know what you don’t know. As you begin (or continue) your research, you’re bound to learn a lot – including what you don’t know. And that’s a good thing. Hounsell notes that people need to figure out their own gaps in knowledge and how that affects their planning. You can find a host of resources about retirement from WISER here, including by-the-decade to-do lists as well as information about the saver’s tax credit. Check out WISER’s “Five Questions to Ask Your Mother or Grandmother” and talk with your elders, or just ask them of yourself! Meanwhile, for more stories about retirement from HerMoney, click here.


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