Golf Provides Retirement Planning Lessons

Strategies for creating a sound financial future are right there in the game

10/02/2013

Golf Provides Retirement Planning Lessons

In most people’s minds, golf and retirement go hand in hand. It’s simply assumed that once full-time work is left behind, men and women will take to the links for relaxing exercise. That may be true, but the sport also contains a few financial lessons for those in the retirement planning phase.
 
Start Early – Tiger Woods didn’t become great by picking up golf clubs at age 20. Roughly translated to retirement planning, it wouldn’t make sense to start getting your financial house in order when you turn 60. As CBSNews.com explains, “Many people actually spend more time planning their next vacation than planning for a period in their lives that could last 20 or 30 years or more.”
 
That being said, it’s never too late to start.
 
Know Thy Self – Just as great golfers are willing to take a hard look at their game in order to make improvements, retirement planners should perform a detailed examination of their finances; this stage also provides an opportunity to set goals.
 
“Taking a realistic look at your financial resources can give you a wake-up call that you need to make important life decisions, such as how long you’ll need to work, whether you should change jobs in order to generate more income, work longer, or find work that you enjoy,” notes CBSNews.com. “You’ll also need to determine whether you need to pare back your living expenses, either now or during your retirement years.”
 
Use the Right Tools – Even the best golfers wouldn’t amount to much on the course without the right tools – a solid driver for tee shots, a perfectly angled sand wedge for sand traps, their favorite putter for slick greens – and the same goes for retirement planning, for which dozens of tools exist: 
  • Individual Retirement Account – According to the United States Department of Labor, “You can put up to $5,000 a year into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA); you can contribute even more if you are 50 or older. You can also start with much less.” IRAs also afford tax advantages, and automatic deposits from checking or savings accounts are easy to arrange. 
  • Employer retirement savings plans – “If your employer offers a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, sign up and contribute all you can,” the Department of Labor says. “Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, compound interest and tax deferrals make a big difference in the amount you will accumulate.” 
  • Social Security – The amount of money one receives from Social Security may be set, but that doesn’t mean individuals can’t plan to delay the beginning of payments if, of course, their finances allow it. CBSNews.com says that “the best strategy is to delay starting Social Security as long as you can, since your income will be increased substantially for every year you delay.” 
Stay on the Fairway – Once initial retirement planning strategies and goals are developed, it’s a good idea to stick to them as best as possible, in the same way that sticking to the fairway and avoiding the rough make for better golf.
 
For example, retirement planners should avoid touching their retirement savings while they’re still working.
 
“If you withdraw your retirement savings now, you’ll lose principal and interest and you may lose tax benefits or have to pay withdrawal penalties,” the Department of Labor advises. “If you change jobs, leave your savings invested in your current retirement plan, or roll them over to an IRA or your new employer’s plan.”
 
Learn from the Pros – Just as avid golfers can learn a thing or two from a local golf pro, retirement planners can receive valuable assistance from a retirement advisor or financial planner. Their advice can go a long way to ensuring one’s retirement peace of mind.
 
Stay Healthy – According to CNBC.com, health care costs during retirement are rising, but most people aren’t aware of just how much.
 
“Two new reports, released [in May 2012]…show Americans drastically underestimate how much they will spend out-of-pocket on health-care costs during retirement,” CNBC.com reports. “Couples retiring this year will need, on average, $240,000 to cover medical expenses throughout retirement, or an out-of-pocket cost of up to $10,750 per year.”
 
In addition to planning for this cost in a financial sense, people can also hope to reduce it right now by getting more exercise, eating well and, in general, staying healthy. Perhaps playing a regular round of golf will do the trick – you might even learn a few things about retirement along the way.

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