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Plan early for financial security

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done" (Eccl 11:4).

If you haven't set some goals for this year, it is not too late ... go for it ... today.

Report card time--are you making the days count or are you just counting the days? Have you made progress on the personal and professional goals you set for yourself ? How are you doing on those New Year's resolutions?

If you are not making as much progress as planned, don't despair. This is hard stuff. You really have to burn some brain cells and be brutally honest with yourself to get goal setting right. Look back upon your successes. My guess is you'll find your previous success can in large part be contributed to the fact you were wholeheartedly committed. And when the passion and dedication were not there, well ... you know the rest.

It's easy to put this intangible task off until tomorrow. It is also easy to set too many goals and achieve none because you have so many irons in the fire. One area I've found from my experience and observation that can usually use more attention is family financial planning and I'm not talking about balancing your checkbook. It's never too early and it's never too late to work on your financial future.

Let's look at our nation's generations in comparison. Generation X, comprising those born between 1965 and 1976, has only 41 million people. Whereas, there are 76 million boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and 72 million in Gen-Y (born between 1977 and 1994). Popular perception hasn't been kind. Gen-X has been labeled as "slackers." But while they may have a reputation as "kids" with too many electronic toys, in reality, they've done a better job of preparing for a financially secure retirement than the boomers. The stats on Generation Y aren't in yet.

While many boomers were late to need in planning and had little to no clue about their retirement needs, a large percentage of Gen-X have been delving into the details.
According to a Harris poll, 70 percent of Gen-Xers don't expect a pension and 65 percent aren't counting on Social Security. Instead, 55 percent said they'll rely on investments to fund retirement. It's not too early for Gen-Y to start. Here are some key steps to staying financially fit and on track for retirement:

· Have a goal. Build you action plan to get to that goal.

· Make saving at least 15 percent of pretax salary a priority.

· Remember, the clock is ticking on retirement. If you're pressed for time, consider an automatic savings plan, in which you contribute money automatically to your retirement plan from every paycheck.

· If you're worried about managing your portfolio, consider a target fund that "targets" a retirement date and automatically adjusts your asset allocation as you near retirement.
· Track your spending to find ways of cutting back. Do you really need to spend $4 a day on a double mocha latte?

· Get used to living on a little less now. It will be a lot harder later on, if you spend at or beyond your means your whole life.

· Take advantage of your employer's 401(k) or other retirement plan. Consider a deductible traditional IRA or Roth IRA.

· When you get a raise, don't raise your standard of living. Earmark as much as you can for retirement savings.

· Resist the temptation to cut back on saving for retirement, regardless of what's going on elsewhere in your life. Convince yourself that your retirement funds are untouchable; don't tap the till for anything but retirement.

· Revisit your retirement plan annually. Don't just review your portfolio's investment performance--also monitor your ability and willingness to save.