In 1 Tim. 5:8 we are instructed, "If anyone does not provide for his family, especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than unbeliever." When that verse says "take care of the needs of," in the original language it implies with forethought toward the future. Having adequate income in retirement is one way Christians can "take care of the needs of their family" with forethought toward the future.
It seems everyone realizes a need to save for retirement. Too often folks get to retirement years only to discover they are far from financially ready to retire. That is often simply due to the failure to save enough toward retirement in earlier years. But sometimes the failure is due to unwise decisions regarding retirement investing.
Here are four mistakes frequently made:
1. Setting up a retirement plan and then forgetting it. Many people start off right. They set up a retirement contribution and choice of investments and never make adjustments. Getting a good start is important. It's just as important to have periodic reviews of investment allocations and contribution levels. Without this, you're less likely to reach retirement goals.
2. Investing inappropriately. Your choice of investments needs to be appropriate for your personal risk tolerance and the time you have until retirement. Typically those investment choices will need to change as you get older and closer to retirement. Adequate diversification among various types of investments is essential. A qualified professional can help you assess investment choices and needs for periodic changes.<>3. Taking a retirement account loan. Borrowing from one's retirement can be tempting, especially when money is tight and unexpected expected expenses occur. A problem occurs when money you've taken out as a loan isn't invested, which means you could be missing substantial growth opportunities. There can also be negative tax ramifications in taking a loan from your retirement account. Seek wise council before borrowing from your retirement account.
4. Not knowing retirement income needs. Planning for retirement is too often a "stab in the dark." People save with no idea of whether the savings amount is adequate. Make a realistic estimate of expenses you'll have in retirement. The general rule has been that your retirement income should be about 80 percent of final pay. Today, with higher health care costs and with increased use of technology, many seniors find the 80 percent rule is too low. Plan for increased costs, then save and invest accordingly. Otherwise, you'll find it necessary to radically adjust living standards in retirement.
Many people spend more time planning for a one week vacation than they do for retirement. The average American will spend over 20 years in retirement. Make sure your planning is adequate to ensure needed income during those years.
Don Spencer is Kentucky Baptist Convention Church Financial Benefits Consultant.