Don’t See Retirement Planning as a Dark Treacherous Terrain

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By Rick Kahler via

My hunch is that most people would agree they "should" invest for the future. My second hunch is that many of them don't know how to start and are afraid of making serious mistakes.

One of our resident planners, Sterling Gray, summed up that fear eloquently in a post on the KFG blog: "I noticed that my friends and colleagues . . . saw retirement planning as a dark, treacherous terrain that they could never safely travel alone. Unsure of where to turn for help, they often chose to ignore saving for retirement completely . . ."

Here are some pointers to help you take the first steps into the unfamiliar terrain of investing.

1. First and foremost, create a habit of living on less than you make. Spend frugally and invest as much as you possibly can. Ideally, while you are young, start with 20% of your paycheck, but at least start with something. The older you are, the greater the percentage you need to be saving.

2. Choose an investment method that will help reduce the taxes you pay on your contributions and the earnings they produce. This commonly means 401(k) retirement plans and IRAs—Roth IRAs for those in low income tax brackets and traditional IRAs for those in high tax brackets. You typically want to contribute a portion of every paycheck to your retirement plan.

3. Pick an investment. This is the part that scares many people away from investing, so let's be specific.

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