Tax season: A great time to conduct a retirement checkup

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2011

(ARA) -Every year there are routine obligations to fulfill – visiting the doctor for a checkup, doing your taxes, seeing a dentist. But is evaluating your retirement plan one of those annual rituals? For many, a lack of proactive planning will only lead to added stress.

In fact, a recent survey released by TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation found that nearly one-third (31 percent) of pre-retirees are concerned they may not achieve financial success.

When it comes to assessing your readiness for retirement, tax time can be a great time to do so. What many don’t realize is that the paperwork needed for taxes is the same paperwork needed to plan for retirement. Since you’re already gathering the information and will potentially have extra money in the bank from your refund, it’s a logical time to check in and make necessary adjustments to your retirement plan or contributions.

“Starting early with planning and investing for retirement is key, but it’s important to remember that you don’t have to develop a comprehensive plan all at once,” says Lule Demmissie, managing director, investment products and retirement, TD Ameritrade, Inc., a brokerage subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation. “Breaking it up into pieces and getting your plan started during tax time makes good sense. You can always build upon it in phases.”

So where do you begin? If you haven’t yet given much thought to retirement, assessing your current financial situation will help you determine your next move. TD Ameritrade’s WealthRuler is an innovative, online retirement calculator that helps investors review their projected retirement savings and expenses. WealthRuler is free and available to everyone. If you want to speak to someone in person, you can also visit a TD Ameritrade branch for a quick retirement checkup discussion.

After you’ve determined your level of preparedness for retirement, it may be time to act. Consider these four key areas when planning for retirement:

* Lifestyle. Try to envision where you’ll want to live when you are retired and the associated travel costs, taxes and proximity to key items of importance such as health care services. Try to picture what types of activities you will enjoy in retirement and how much they will cost, in addition to the money necessary to maintain your current lifestyle.

* Budget. Consider any expenses that will cease to exist upon retirement. Then, factor in costs that you expect to increase, such as health care expenses and travel. See how your retirement budget compares to your current budget and plan accordingly.

* Resources. Conducting an annual inventory on the different types of income you’ll receive in retirement can give you a clearer picture of what your retirement outlook will be.

* Investments. You want your money to last in retirement, so be sure to have a plan in place that can help you achieve this. If you are not sure where to begin to develop such a plan, consider going online or consulting a financial professional who could shed light on helpful tips such as investing in a tax-free environment compared to a taxable account.

When it comes to planning for retirement, the earlier you begin, the better. However, even if you are getting a late start or lost retirement savings in the recent recession, it’s never too late to start planning. It may mean that your expectations will need to be adjusted or that you need to work a little longer, but there is still time to formulate a practical plan.

“The reality is that 70 percent of people today plan to work during retirement, so the idea of retirement may need to be redefined for many,” Demmissie said. “Just because you may have a change of plans, it doesn’t equate to failure. It’s about being prepared and knowing your financial situation ahead of time so that you may have a better chance to reach financial success in retirement.”