By AJ Smith/Credit.com
Planning for retirement can be tricky and you may feel unprepared for planning your financial future. Researching and understanding the retirement process and even using a retirement calculator can be great places to start.
Though retirement may seem far away, the financial decisions you make now can affect how long it takes you to reach your goal. Retiring the way you want requires planning, budgeting and follow-through.
But even those who plan carefully can forget to take into account some important factors that could lead to costly mistakes.
While you may hope that your children and grandchildren will be hard workers and great savers like you try to be, periods of economic recession can leave young adults looking to their parents for help. If you want to help out in this type of situation, it's important to have some padding in your retirement plan.
Consider establishing a specialized trust account for family members, a 529, UTMA or UGMA plan for each of your grandchildren, or even a gift account where you can make payments to family members as you see fit.
When you contribute to a traditional IRA or 401(k) retirement plan, you get quite a significant tax break at the time. All of your contributions are made pretax, meaning they are taken from your paycheck before being taxed by the government. This lowers your taxable income as well, saving you more money.
But remember, if you choose to cash out early, you are penalized quite heavily (10 percent) and the pretax contributions you made are taxed as you withdraw them. It's a good idea to research the best ways for you to save for retirement for your particular situation.
Housing and medical costs
The need to plan for housing in retirement goes beyond having a home -- there are unique and numerous options for living while you age. Being less mobile or having increased needs can make housing more expensive as you may need specialized accommodations or access to assistance. It may seem obvious, but declining health can be expensive. Life in retirement can include major surgeries and lifestyle adjustments, so don't let health care hold you back from experiencing the retirement you want.
While it is difficult to predict how many years you should be saving for while you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s and even beyond, you should consider your family history and society's recent longer life expectancy.
For a safe withdrawal rate, it's important to save up enough so you can use a comfortable amount per year and still not run out of money. As a rule of thumb, you should be prepared for the maximum number of years you could reach. No matter what age or stage you're at in your life, it is always a good idea to save early and often. Investing wisely in your own retirement can help ensure that you can afford everything you need, and even some things you may have forgotten to account for.