Recently my daughter came up to me trying to figure out her new 401(k) plan. She said, “You know, you really had it easier back then. The whole retirement thing was figured out for you.” And I told her, anyone who says the past was easier really wasn't around back then. People built their retirement by building good habits and you can do this as well.
I said there are seven essential habits that everyone can follow. Now she could sense a lecture coming on, but she asked me anyway, “What are they?” and I said, Let me tell you:
The first is to start early and if it's too late to start early then just go ahead and start now. Time is your best friend when it comes to saving. Time smooths out, investing is ups and downs, and it really lets the market work for you.
The next thing to do is to max out your savings rate. Save as much as the IRS allows, and if you can’t save that much right, now figure out what you can save, don't just go with the minimum.
Third, increase savings when you can if you got a raise, great, save more. You got a bonus, great, save it. Don't spend it. The more you save now, the more flexibility and choice you’ll have later.
Fourth, pay attention to what's going on. Read your statement, go to the website, don't get obsessed with what the market does every day. Your plan is there to pay for food, shelter and expenses in retirement. It's not about proving that you were some market genius.
Next, you should review your strategy every year. Things change. You'll get married, you’ll have kids, you’ll change jobs, even your 401(k) changes and will add new choices over time. Every year, when you reenroll in your benefits, take a look at your plan and your strategy.
Number six. I've told you this for a long time, but act your age. When you're young, you can take risks in your investment but you should tone it down as you get older. Start hanging on to what you have. Don't go too conservative, but add more fixed income securities and get more diversified.
Finally, number seven: estimate your retirement income. When you get into that home stretch, look at everything. Look at social security, look at your 401(k) and figure out how much income it will give you and for how long. Figure it out when there's still time to make some smart changes.
So my daughter says, “That's pretty good, how did you figure all of that out?” And I said, I had years of experience but you have more resources than I did. Go to Blackrock.com/retirement to learn more.