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If – like most – you are planning to stop working full-time someday, you are probably curious about how you are doing along the path to a comfortable retirement.  This is especially true if it’s decades away, or if you are in the middle years of your working career – you want to know if where you are now is putting you on the path to where you want to eventually be.

Many will tell you there are hard and fast rules of thumb – and you may have heard some of them.  “By the time you are 40 you should have saved 2.5 times your salary” or “Save at least 15% of your net income if you want to retire” could be some of the tropes you’ve heard.  Problem is, these numbers usually sound pretty difficult to meet, and once you’ve seen you can’t meet them – it’s pretty easy to become discouraged.  And being discouraged about an event that’s years off can be a serious hindrance to pursuing your retirement goals at all.

So maybe there’s another way to look at it.  What if we approached being on target for retirement through the lens of solid, time-tested good habits and best practices, instead of hard and fast benchmarks?  Staying away from the formulas can help you build a solid attitude towards retirement and put you on target without having to work toward some one-size-fits-all goal

The first good habit to develop – and this one is essential – is spending less than you make.  Knowing how much you have coming in and how much is going out on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and/or yearly basis is key to your financial health.

From here, having a budget that plans for these inflows and outflows can also involve planning to save.  When you make savings a budget item that you can stick to, you are well on your way to getting on target for a comfortable retirement.  And here’s where a number comes in: starting with 10 to 15% of your income is something worth striving for.  If you can’t begin with 10%, begin with whatever you can because setting up the habit is important.

If your job offers a savings plan, such as a 401k, you can automatically put this money aside from your paycheck.  This contribution is usually tax-free, and companies also usually match a portion of this savings. Both of these factors deliver an immediate return on your initial investment – and this is why a 401k is a powerful savings tool for retirement.

The earlier in your working life you begin this effort the better. When you can take advantage of the benefit of compounding by investing with a long-time horizon, your balances will really add up.  Compound interest has been called one of the most powerful forces in the universe!

Another great habit is to increase the amount you save with every promotion or pay raise.  While it’s easy enough to have “lifestyle creep” when you begin making more money, it’s also just as easy to have “savings creep” and begin saving more money with every raise.

The last “best practice” we’ll look at is consistency.  If you can set up a system of savings that allows you to make contributions to your nest egg day in and day out, year after year, you’ll find that you are well on your way to a comfortable retirement.

So when you think about “who’s on target” to retire comfortably, you can look at people of any age – and most importantly yourself – and identify those who have great savings habits and have made savings a key part of their budget.  If you can count yourself among these people, then you are on target.

Talking to your local banker can help you get a handle on a savings plan that works for you – wherever you are on your journey to retirement.

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