03/13/2013 04:46 pm ET Updated May 13, 2013

Don't Leave Your Retirement to Luck

St. Patrick's Day is a time to embrace all things Irish, including one of my favorites: LUCK. Many people think of luck as something that just happens, by chance. Because of this, some people adopt an overly-optimistic view of what luck can do for their financial situation. Numerous studies demonstrate that most people overestimate their abilities in many areas -- personal finances, intelligence, talents and more. Blindly hoping that luck will help boost your financial situation is a sure recipe for frustration and disappointment.

In fact, the common phrase -- good luck is created when hard work meets opportunity -- holds great truth. More often than not, if you dig below the surface of "lucky" people who have succeeded in their finances, careers or personal lives, you will find a tremendous amount of sacrifice, strategic planning and devotion.

Here are two financial areas that you do not want to leave to blind luck.

#1: Blindly rolling the dice on investment risk.

The world has never been more interconnected, complex and fast moving than it is today. The abundance of available information can be paralyzing, especially during heated economic time periods. Yet, as Albert Einstein so aptly put it: "Information is not knowledge." To avoid the information-overload trap, find trusted, knowledgeable resources that help you keep in touch with current macroeconomic themes to help assess and navigate dangerous potential financial pitfalls.

Understanding the importance of diversification, based on your time horizon, risk tolerance and specific circumstances, should not be left to blind luck. For those who are closer to retirement, that there is less time to recover from overly-aggressive asset allocations, while younger investors have more time on their side and greater ability to ride out market ups and downs. Pre-retirees should consider more conservative investment options in their retirement portfolio -- fixed income, stable value, bond funds -- while younger investors can take a few more risks. Annually, it's a good idea to assess the retirement allocations and make tweaks as needed, shifting to more conservative investments as the retirement time horizon shortens. A popular option to consider that removes the heavy-lifting from your shoulders is target-date funds which automatically adjust portfolio allocations over time for an investor.

#2: Leaving your nest egg strategy to the birds.
Simply putting money into a tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicle on a monthly basis is a great first step to reach your retirement goals. However, it's far from being the complete answer. Another important step is to create a holistic plan, and determine if the dollar amount you are saving will get you closer to your retirement goals. There are many easy-to-use online planning tools that can begin this process for you, and ING U.S. offers several good ones. For example, you can calculate your estimated retirement "number" on or compare your financial picture to others just like you with You can even "score" how well you're doing with your savings based on your age and annual income with ING My Savings Score. Of course, tools like these are meant to be a gateway to more thorough planning, including conversations with a trusted professional.

Look for part two of Don't Leave Your Retirement to Luck in next month's column. I will continue the conversation of key financial areas of life - protection, college funding, legacy planning - that often get left to blind luck.

ING Retirement Coach Jacob Gold is a third generation financial advisor. He is a published author of "Financial Intelligence; Getting Back to Basics after an Economic Meltdown", which was published in August 2009. Gold is a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner and FINRA Series 7, 24 and 66 securities registered.

Securities and Investment advisory services offered through ING Financial Partners, Member SIPC. Neither ING Financial Partners nor its representatives offer tax advice.