Visualise your retirement, make it happen
National Retirement Security Week is next week, and Iím excited that people are waking up to the importance of planning for the future. They know the actions they take now will make or break the golden years.
Letís be honest, though. Building wealth takes time. Itís easy to get distracted by short-term wants, like that fancy new car or fantasy vacation. So how, exactly, do you stay focused on a long-term goal like retirement? Hereís an illustration that might help.
Some athletes use visualisation as a part of their preparation for competition. They mentally rehearse hitting a shot, defending a goal, running a sprint, or swimming a lap.
And then, when the time comes, those athletes take action. They run, jump, swing, race, swim, hit, defend and win. They see the goal in their minds ó and then they make it happen.
The same principle applies to your retirement savings. You need to visualise what you see yourself doing when you retire ó travelling, writing, volunteering, learning, exploring, growing. Once you have that mental picture firmly rooted in your mind, itís time to take action. You do whatever it takes to make that dream become reality.
Whether youíre in your twenties or your sixties, you need to make a few strategic choices that will help you keep your eye on the prize. You need to protect yourself against bad decisions and put yourself in a position to win.
Here are four things you can do:
1. Use auto draft. If you participate in your company-sponsored retirement plan ó youíre already using auto draft. Money goes straight from your paycheque to your retirement fund without you seeing it in your bank account. But thatís not the only option for auto draft. Some employers will also transfer money from your paycheque into an investment account. You just have to tell your payroll manager how much you want taken out of each cheque. If thatís not an option, work directly with a brokerage firm to schedule automatic transfers from your chequing account into a brokerage account.
2. Avoid lifestyle creep. Itís easy to up your standard of living as your salary increases. Thatís why you donít see seasoned lawyers living in the same dump they rented during law school. Hereís the problem, though: if youíre not careful, your new lifestyle can outrun your budget. Yes, you want nice things for you and your family, but donít get too carried away trying to keep up with the Joneses. Theyíll still be paying for their poor money choices long after youíve retired.
3. Limit celebration spending. I once worked with a couple who had worked hard for eight years to pay off their debt, including their home mortgage. To celebrate their accomplishment, they took out a $100,000 loan to buy a sailboat. That celebration put them right back into debt!
Itís okay to celebrate huge milestones like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations ó within reason. But that doesnít mean you should take out a loan so your daughter can drive to college in a cool ride. She can drive an older car you bought with cash.
4. Stay connected. Autopilot is great for transatlantic flights, but itís horrible for investing. You canít just throw a bunch of money into a retirement account and let it go unmanaged and unchecked for years. You need to meet regularly with an investment professional to review your investments. Over time, youíll need to adjust your portfolio as the market changes ó and as you get closer to retirement. Itís your money, so itís your responsibility to invest it well.
Hear me when I say itís critical that you visualise your retirement now. Otherwise, you wonít have a goal to chase after. That retirement dream will give you the boost you need when youíre working those extra hours and living a cash-only lifestyle.
On the flip side, donít get so wrapped up in the dream that you forget to keep taking steps forward. You canít just wish yourself into a great retirement. It takes a great dream ó and a lot of hard work!
Chris Hogan is a #1 national bestselling author, dynamic speaker and financial expert. For more than a decade, Hogan has served at Ramsey Solutions, spreading a message of hope to audiences across the country as a financial coach and Ramsey Personality. His second book, Everyday Millionaire: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth ó And How You Can, Too, is based on the largest study of net-worth millionaires ever conducted. You can follow Hogan on Twitter and Instagram at @ChrisHogan360 and online at chrishogan360.com or facebook.com/chrishogan360
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