Road Map: What Successful Americans Are Doing To Retire Comfortably
By: Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) — The data on retirement are rolling in, and it’s not good news for the baby boomers.

According to My New Financial Advisor, a Montecito, Calif.-based financial adviser lead generation service, most boomers will have to wait until age 75 until they can retire.

That’s about 10 years later than Americans have retired historically, and a sure sign boomers are in some serious trouble as they advance toward their golden years.

The company says there is a long list of reasons Americans are having so much trouble with their retirement savings, with loss of income, weak savings, historically low fixed-income investment returns, past-due taxes and thinner paychecks first in line.

In a word, it’s all about cash flow, and Americans — especially those 77 million baby boomers — are doing a lousy job managing that cash flow heading into retirement.

One investment firm — Omaha, Neb.-based TD Ameritrade — says the blueprint for a successful retirement is out there, widely available for Americans to follow and even fairly straightforward, being based on what people who have already successfully saved for retirement have done. The tactics can really spur your retirement program and even help you catch up if you’ve fallen behind:

  • Curb credit: Sixty-seven percent of “successful” retirement savers say their top key to a better retirement is limiting the use of credit. That means holding back on credit cards, not buying a new car every three to five years or, for younger Americans, not getting bogged down with heavy student loan debt. Cut those credit costs, plug in the money you save for retirement and you’re way ahead of the game.
  • Save early:

    Ask any financial adviser the key to saving enough for retirement and he or she will immediately answer, “Start saving early.” If you max out on your company 401(k) plan and don’t dip into your retirement savings throughout the course of your career, you should have no problem accumulating enough cash to retire at age 65 — or earlier. (BankingMyWay offers a helpful retirement planning calculator that allows you to measure how much you’re saving — and need to save — for retirement.)

  • Avoid “luxury” items:

    TD Ameritrade says 58% of the successful retirement savers it tracks said they spend less on so-called “luxury items” such as high-end cars and trucks, 3,000-foot McMansions or lavish trips abroad. Driving a more economical car or living in a smaller, more affordable home can mean a world of difference when saving enough for a good retirement.

  • Aim for a higher salary:

    This one isn’t easy, but 56% of the Americans surveyed by TD Ameritrade says the key to their successful planning efforts was a “an excellent salary.” It’s hard to tie your career to a dollar sign, but if you can take full advantage of bonuses, raises and promotions in the workplace and steer that cash toward retirement (there is, after all, no law that says you have to spend a bonus), you’ll gain a big financial boost later in life.

Add in a balanced investment plan and TD America says you now have the perfect blueprint for a sweet retirement.

“While earning a good salary certainly makes saving and limiting the use of credit easier, the survey shows that there are some things all of us can do to help us be better financially prepared for a comfortable retirement,” says Lule Demmissie, a managing director at the firm. “Saving early and automatically, adopting more conservative spending habits and investing in a well-balanced portfolio are things we can all do.”

But that’s just the appetizer, she says.

“If you can’t afford to save or invest a lot, consider small incremental deposits in a no-fee retirement account and increase them as your salary increases. This path doesn’t mean you have to cut out all discretionary spending. Instead, you reprioritize your spending to allocate more wisely to things that make you most happy while cutting back on those expenditures that don’t really add much to your happiness and allocate that to your savings.”

—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.

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