Are Your Retirement Savings at Risk? Take This Quiz to Find Out

By Wendy Connick Markets Fool.com

Saving money for retirement is something almost everybody has to do. However, getting the funds into a retirement account is only half the issue. Few of us would be able to accumulate enough for retirement without the benefit of significant returns on our savings. In other words, sticking the money into a bank savings account just won't grow fast enough to fund your retirement unless you're able to set aside truly enormous sums.

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Yet placing your retirement savings into riskier assets, such as stocks, opens you to the possibility of losing some or even all your money. And the type of investment you choose is only one of the many factors that can increase or decrease your risk of losses. Take this quiz to better understand the risks facing your retirement savings.

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Answer yes or no to each of the below questions to identify your retirement savings risks.

Do you anticipate you'll have significant credit card debt on the day you retire?

Yes No

Do you anticipate you'll still be paying off your mortgage on the day you retire?

Yes No

If you own shares of your employer's company stock, does it make up more than 10% of the value of your retirement savings?

Yes No

Does any single stock make up more than 10% of your retirement savings?

Yes No

Are you counting on Social Security benefits for the majority of your income in retirement?

Yes No

Do your plans assume you'll make a return on your retirement investments of over 7%?

Yes No

Are more than 20% of your retirement savings invested in a single sector (e.g. technology stocks)?

Yes No

Do you have less than six months worth of emergency savings set aside?

Yes No

If you're managing your own retirement investments, do you lack investment experience?

Yes No

If you've hired an advisor to manage your retirement accounts, have you failed to check his credentials, references, and experience with investing for retirement?

Yes No

Do you have stocks your bought on margin in your retirement account?

Yes No

Have you failed to calculate how much income you'll need in retirement?

Yes No

Did you "set and forget" your retirement account, picking investments once and ignoring them thereafter?

Yes No

Is your house worth less than your existing mortgage balance?

Yes No

Look over the results and see how many "yes" answers you selected. The more "yes" answers you have, the bigger the chances that you won't have sufficient funds in retirement.

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If you selected all "no" answers, you're taking excellent care of your retirement funds. For each "yes" answer, review the question and consider making some changes. Having a few "yeses" doesn't necessarily mean you're in trouble, but it does mean you are indulging in some risky behaviors.

For example, if you owe more on your house than it's worth, you have a Sword of Damocles hanging over your head. If at any time you need to sell your house, you likely won't be able to get enough from the sale to pay off your mortgage. That will leave you in the unhappy situation of making payments on a house you don't even live in anymore. Obviously, that would put a huge strain on the rest of your finances, which may force you to suspend retirement contributions for a while or even take money out of your retirement accounts to get rid of that loan. Making some extra mortgage payments to get yourself back into a positive balance would be a very good way to protect your retirement accounts.

Similarly, if you own large quantities of your employer's stock, you are essentially going double or nothing on your employer's business. Should that business go bankrupt or otherwise run into serious financial problems, not only will you lose your job, but a large chunk of your retirement savings may become worthless. That's a one-two punch that would be extremely difficult to recover from.

The closer you are to retirement age, the more seriously you should take these risks. Running into financial problems 30 years before retirement still gives you plenty of time to recover and accrue more funds, but running into trouble one or two years before retirement would make it almost impossible for you to retire on schedule. So if you actually want to spend your retirement sitting on the beach in a lawn chair instead of working, you'd be wise to address these risks now.

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