You read about it everywhere. Binging. People holing themselves up in their homes for entire weekends to watch entire seasons of popular series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Mad Men.
In our house, television has traditionally been relegated to background noise - a sports event, CNBC or the voice available for an occasional glance or pause in the evening's activities.
Well, that was the case until about a year ago... before I watched the first episode of Breaking Bad. Before I knew it, I had ripped through the entire series. The Walking Dead came next and I am now deep into House of Cards. I, of course, keep promising myself that it will be over after this series. No more binging for me. I swear. Just one or two more clicks on Netflix.
So what does binging have to do with retirement planning? Most would say not much, but for many of us binging may be an answer to the age-old problem of seizing control of your financial destiny - finding (and taking) the time to assess your situation and put together a plan. Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you spent an uninterrupted hour working on your retirement plan? Ever? Many people spend more time planning a single vacation than they do planning for the 30-plus years they will spend in retirement. How about you?
So what does a "retirement budgeting binge" look like?
1. Set aside a chunk of time. This might be the hardest part. Pick a weekend to give yourself plenty of time or take a day off work if things get too crazy on the weekends. Whatever you do, make sure the exercise gets your undivided attention.
2. Pre-binge preparation. Collect all of the info you will need for your binge, including account statements, tax returns, debt balances and other important financial information. Try not to make the entire retirement budget binge an exercise in gathering information. The majority of the time should be focused on assessing your situation and determining whether you need to make adjustments.
3. The big day - the binge begins. The first step in your retirement binge should be assessing your specific situation. Many experts believe you should target being able to generate 70-85 percent of your current income in retirement. Many of those same experts think that we all need to save 10 percent or more of our income to get there. So make an assumption of what age you'll retire (for example, 65), determine whether you are going to hit that 70-85 percent or not.
4. Utilize a planning tool. Whether it's a notebook, spreadsheet or planning software, have a place to summarize and assess your retirement situation. You need to be able to assess how much income you desire to have in retirement, what your likely expenses in retirement will look like and how much money you will need to save to get you there.
5. Develop a specific action plan. Depending on how your assessment process goes, step two in your binge should be to determine what steps you need to develop an action plan. This could involve saving more in a 401(k) or IRA. It could involve spending less. For most of us, it's probably a little of both. Your action plan may also involve things like extending your retirement date or modifying your expectations in retirement.
Ensuring 30-plus years of safety and security in retirement is worth a day or two now for your future self. Life is busy and for most of us it stays that way. Transform the rest of your life - make this a priority and carve out a little time now. Fight retirement planning inertia. Schedule your retirement budget binge today!
I know I say this a lot, but you can save yourself a lot of time and effort by working directly with a financial advisor that specializes in retirement planning. In the process, you may end up saving a lot more money for retirement as well.