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Did you know that nearly a third of pre-retirees would rather clean their bathrooms or pay bills than plan for retirement? As “Retirement Consumers” we have the opportunity to direct our own retirement. Consumers are empowered to choose what’s most relevant and meaningful to them. Today’s retirement consumers have access to an increasingly broad set of tools, advice and solutions.  As the notion of “retirement security” continues to evolve, these services assume a new importance in fulfilling what’s increasingly our own responsibility. More than ever, we need to accept that we are the architects of our own retirement and act accordingly.

A recent study by ING showed that 48 percent of respondents don’t feel prepared for retirement, and 71 percent say they don’t have a formal investment plan in place to help them reach their financial goals.  While the study revealed that employer-sponsored plans are widely used, consumers could better supplement this important means of saving. Overall, consumers could increase their contributions to receive the full employer match and take better advantage of the sponsored benefits available through their workplace.

The following simple and important savings recommendations assist consumers in meeting their retirement goals:

Make Saving a Personal Responsibility

More than ever, individuals are responsible for retirement planning. A comprehensive approach that includes a financial plan, advice from a trusted financial professional and a variety of savings strategies help them achieve their goals.

Enroll in a Workplace Plan

A workplace retirement plan often serves as the cornerstone of a successful retirement program and one of the first and best places to start saving. These plans offer a number of benefits, including the convenience of having investments directly deducted from a paycheck, tax-deferred growth on savings, company matching when available, and choice and control over how to invest.

Gain Greater Control over Assets

Take advantage of the multiple savings opportunities available, including Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), Roth IRAs, traditional bank accounts, CDs, or brokerage accounts. Assess inventory and take control of assets, including “idle” or “orphaned” accounts, so they are maximized. Also, evaluate rollover and IRA consolidation options, which can often help lower custodian fees, enhance portfolio management, reduce paperwork and improve beneficiary designation planning.

Take the fees saved by consolidating accounts and pay down debt. Over 90 percent of respondents have a credit card with 40 percent having over $6,400 in debt.

Calculate Retirement Needs and Evaluate Savings Rates

Less than half (43 percent) of survey respondents have calculated how much they need to continue their lifestyle after retirement. After enrolling in a workplace retirement plan or opening up an IRA, calculate how much is needed to continue your current lifestyle after retirement and set your contribution percentage rate to help reach your retirement objectives. Accomplishing this critical step can significantly impact your ability to reach your retirement goals.

Get Education, Information and Professional Guidance

Nearly half of survey respondents expect their employer to do more to educate them on retirement options. Furthermore, although they value face-to-face communication with a financial professional, only 28 percent are currently working with one. Take advantage of the support, guidance and information available in person, over the phone, through online tools or through an employer. Leverage the tools and calculators available to help better understand retirement planning needs and options.