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"You're Fired!" 4 Survival tips for a 30-year Termination, aka Retirement

05/12/2014 03:32 pm ET | Updated Jul 12, 2014

I was reading an article in USA Today last week that asked the question -- whether $1 million would be enough money to fund retirement. The article compared retirement with unemployment -- a good analogy and one that got me really thinking. What if you were fired for 30 years?

What would happen to you right now if you were unemployable for the next 30 years? It would be a disaster for many, if not most people. Some would be forced to take dramatic measures to stay fed, clothed, warm and safe.

What's so different about that same event occurring when you retire? One simple question I like to ask people when it comes to retirement is, "What happens if you don't save enough for retirement?" Some of the more popular answers:

1. "I can always go back to work."
2. "I will spend less and change my quality of life when I retire."
3. "Social Security will cover the basics."
4. "I will be fine. I'll have enough money saved by then."
5. "I'll ramp up my savings when I hit the big income years."

When I hear these responses, the word "hope" always comes to mind -- and you know what they say about hope as a strategy (it isn't one). Going back to work can be a big bet. We all talk about moderating our spending habits, but that tends to be easier said than done. For many Americans, Social Security won't even cover the basics, and that's assuming there are no future cuts in the program. Finally, kicking the can down the road is rarely a good approach. Time goes fast. A lot of us end up at the door of retirement before we know it.

So given all that, what can we do to prepare for 30 plus years of unemployment (a.k.a. - retirement)? Here are four important Retirement Survival Tips.

1. Don't drift. No need to worry, panic or be overcome with fear. Just be engaged in the process. Work on it. Have a thought process. Have a plan. Don't let "hope" be your retirement strategy.
2. Set a specific goal. First, choose a date you want to retire. Second, figure out how much you will need at retirement. Finally, determine how much you will need to save on a regular basis to get there. There are plenty of tools and calculators out there to help
3. Save sooner. It's never too late to start planning and saving. It's also never too early. Time moves quickly. Let's face it, the longer you wait, the fewer options and flexibility you have. If you have debts and expenses to manage, you probably need to do both at the same time - save and manage your debts.
4. Don't go it alone. I often hear that people do not work with a financial professional because they don't think they have enough money. Building a relationship with a financial professional early in life can be critical to making good, long-term, financial decisions. For many of us, it increases the chances that we will in fact have "enough" money when we need it -- like during retirement.

A little preparation can go a long way. Ensure that the day you fire yourself is filled with excitement, anticipation and celebration, not fear and despair as you begin to spend the next 30 years of unemployed retirement doing the things you love to do.

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