The following post comes from the America Saves Blog. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

By Maliz Beams
CEO ING U.S. Retirement

If you’re like most people today, you and your family face a number of significant financial obligations — food and household expenses, credit card payments, healthcare costs and college tuition bills, just to name a few.  With so many competing priorities in our lives, it can be easy to lose sight of another major financial commitment down the road — your retirement.

To make matters more challenging, the responsibility of funding retirement is ours more than ever before.  No matter what stage in your career, developing a holistic approach to planning and saving — both in and out of the workplace — and seeking advice, education and guidance are critical to reaching one’s retirement goals.

An ING Retirement Research Institute study found that many Americans are taking steps to reach a more positive financial future — well over half (57%) acknowledged that saving for retirement is their most important long-term financial goal and nearly three-quarters (72%) confirmed they were receiving the full employer match in their workplace retirement plan.  This is good news!

But we need to be doing much more.  Our research also showed that a top concern for more than three-quarters (77%) of retirement plan investors is their financial security once they leave the workforce.  By taking steps early on that help you save easily and automatically, you can be in a better position to retire with the financial security you expect and deserve.  Here are a few things to consider:

Develop a Comprehensive Plan. Focus on building your retirement nest egg, but also find ways to create a steady stream of income for life after you collect your last paycheck.  This means developing a financial plan and reviewing it on a regular basis, getting advice from a trusted financial professional, and utilizing a variety of savings strategies.  There are many places individuals can go to start the planning process.  INGoffers a resource, www.RetireWithING.com, where anyone can get retirement saving information and connect to a professional, if they choose.

Save Automatically Inside or Outside the Workplace.
Workplace plans, like the TSP or a 401(k), have become the cornerstone of most retirement programs and one of the first and best places to start saving. These plans offer a number of benefits, including the convenience of saving automatically from your paycheck; the potential for tax-deferred growth; company matching, when available; and choice and control over how to invest.  There are also other valuable retirement savings vehicles outside of employer-sponsored plans, such as individual retirement plans (IRAs), that can help people save automatically.

Calculate Retirement Needs and Savings Rates.
After starting in a workplace plan or an IRA, the most important decision an investor makes is how much to save.  Many people lack a clear understanding of contribution rates and how even small increases can produce significant results over time. Understanding the projected savings that different contribution levels can produce, and considering things like tax impact, compounding and the effects of employer matches can make a huge difference in retirement preparation.  Many free calculators and online tools are available to help start this process.

Gain Greater Control through Rollovers and Account Consolidation. Take advantage of multiple savings opportunities when possible, such as workplace retirement plans, IRAs, Roth IRAs, traditional bank accounts, CDs and brokerage accounts.  At the same time, make sure to inventory and control your assets.  Having "idle" or "orphaned" retirement savings accounts can be inefficient and reduces your level of control.  Evaluate rollover and IRA consolidation options, which can generally help you lower custodian fees, enhance portfolio management, reduce paperwork and improve beneficiary planning.

Seek Education, Information and Professional Guidance. Knowledge is power, and it can be critical for achieving a positive outcome in retirement.  Guidance and information is available in many forms — over the phone, from an employer, through “self-help” tools, or through face-to-face communication with a trusted financial professional.  ING’s research found that many investors consider a financial professional as the most valuable resource for getting information about their retirement plan and other employee benefits.

(This article was created to provide accurate information on the subjects covered.  It is not intended to provide specific legal, tax or other professional advice. The services of an appropriate professional should be sought regarding your individual situation.  This information is not intended to be used to avoid tax penalties.  Taxpayers should seek advice from an independent tax advisor.)

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