AUSTIN EDITION -- col Time to save for retirement is now
By Cherryl Kjos
Austin Social Security District Manager
Many younger American workers probably scratch their heads in wonder when they are told they need to save more for retirement.
They may be struggling to pay a mortgage, car loans and credit card debts and also may have young children to feed, clothe and educate. When they sit down at the kitchen table to work out a small retirement savings plan, they wonder how they can squeeze a few extra dollars out of the budget for future needs.
As someone who has been there, I know that it can be very hard to do. But as President Bush has said, "Saving is never easy ... but it's always worthwhile." Just do the math, and you'll see why. Generally, when you retire, you will need at least 70 percent of your working income to maintain your standard of living. Social Security will provide only about 40 percent of that for the average wage earner. This means you need to plan for the other 30 percent or more by saving and investing.
Just last year, a survey by the American Savings Education Council reported that fewer than half of working Americans have tried to calculate how much they will need for a comfortable retirement. In 2001, only 33 percent felt they were on track in their financial preparation for retirement, and 34 percent said they are way behind schedule. Half of workers have saved less than $50,000; two people out of 10 say they have saved nothing at all for retirement.
The first step in trying to put together a nest egg for your retirement is having a plan. That's where Social Security can help you. Each year, once you're age 25 or older, you'll get a Social Security Statement about three months before your birthday. It gives an estimate of what you can expect to get each month in Social Security retirement benefits. We recommend that you put it away with your other financial documents and use it as a basic tool in your financial planning.
Social Security also has a "retirement planner" on its Web site at www.ssa.gov. There, people of any age can estimate future retirement benefits by using one of three calculators. Each is excellent, and each provides a different level of sophistication. Users also can link to the American Savings Education Council Web site, which has information on the need for pensions and savings, and on how you can start a sensible savings plan.
Next year Social Security will join with the American Savings Education Council and State Farm Insurance to conduct a nationwide campaign on retirement saving. However, you should start saving for retirement as soon as possible. In fact, the next paycheck might be a good time to begin.