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Jonathan Pond on Planning for Retirement
Jonathan Pond is a financial-advice expert whose 16 prime-time, television specials on PBS, CNN and other networks have been critically acclaimed for their effectiveness in providing useful and understandable guidance to people of all financial circumstances. He is the author of Grow Your Money: 101 Easy Tips to Plan, Save, and Invest and You Can Do It! The Boomer’s Guide to a Great Retirement. Here, Pond shares his strategies for retirement planning.
For someone just starting to think about planning for retirement, what should you be doing?
The first step is to start putting money away. If you can’t do 10% of your salary, start slowly with 1% or 2%. Then, increase to 5%. You probably won’t even miss the money. Putting realistic, attainable goals in writing will help crystallize your thoughts about what you want your money to do for you in retirement. The more specific you can make your goals, the more likely you are to be committed to them.
If you are unsure about where to put your money, where’s the first place you should start?
One thing I really believe is that you want to put most of your money, but probably not all of your money, into stocks—whether it be in the stock market or in your portfolio. Over the years, that will be a very good thing. You need the growth that stocks generate over long periods of time. Just putting money away or saving is only half the battle. You have to save money regularly and invest wisely.
What if you feel you can’t save?
It’s never true. If you save 1%, you will like the notion and go to 2%, and then you are on the road to a financial future. You may not be able to save a lot but you can save. It’s living beneath your means. That’s the key. My best advice for this is to have the money taken from your check automatically. I truly believe everyone can save money. You need to have self-control when it comes to spending. You can try to make a list of your expenses and bring them down a little each week, whether it’s buying a cheaper brand of something or not renting so many movies.
Let’s say you invest 10% into your 401(k) plan at work, and have extra money that you want to invest. What should you be doing?
It’s always best to add to your retirement savings plans at work—if you can get to 15%, great. Then, I think investing in an IRA [is] next. While saving for college and paying down the mortgage are both noble objectives, your most important objective at this stage in your life is putting enough money away for retirement. Moreover, contributing to plans at work and to IRAs are simply better financially than college savings and extra mortgage payments.
You hear a lot about 401(k) plans, but what is a 403(b)?
A 403(b) retirement plan is a tax-sheltered annuity or tax-sheltered account that is used by employees of educational and certain non-profit organizations to contribute to a retirement program on a salary-reduction basis.
How can someone who runs her own business or is self-employed begin saving for retirement?
If you have self-employment income, there are a variety of self-employment plans you can put money in. People who are self-employed part time or full time should participate in those. Any bank or financial planner will talk to you about your options and you should always do that before you get started.
What is the biggest mistake you can makes when you first begin saving for retirement?
You may give up because you’ve set an overly ambitious target, like 15% of your income. After one month, you realize they can’t do that and quit. You get too discouraged.
[Another mistake is] not investing enough. Since there are limits as to how much you can contribute to retirement plans, each year it’s a “use it or lose it” proposition. If you forego putting as much money as you can into a plan in a particular year, it’s a year that can never be made up in the future.
What other things should people be thinking about in the first 30 days?
If you don’t have adequate insurance coverage or health insurance, if you leave gaps in that coverage, a single gap could wipe out years, if not decades, of hard-earned savings. Look into all your choices and plan accordingly.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
That I am entering an exciting period and I have confidence in my abilities to make the change.
The best thing about change is…
…it challenges you.
What is the best change you have ever made?
The best change I ever made was cutting back on the high life and investing in real estate.
For more information on Jonathan Pond, visit www.jonathanpond.com.