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Retirement Planning
Josh Orton, CFP®7 min read

Retirement Planning Steps You Can Take Today

Retirement is the ultimate goal for most Americans today, and this goal can be daunting at times. In fact, *56% of American workers feel that they are behind where they think they should be on their retirement savings. Setting a goal of retiring at some point in the future can feel like a meaningful goal to you, but because it is such a vague goal it’s not all that helpful influencing changes you can make to prepare yourself for retirement.

In our experience as professional wealth managers, the more vague your goals are the less likely you are to take meaningful steps towards achieving said goals.

This concept also works in other aspects of life. Imagine a young couple setting a goal of purchasing a home. They shouldn’t stick their heads in the sand and hope that when they look up in a few years, they can magically afford their ideal home. Instead, they should have a plan in place to start systematically saving their income, reducing other debts, and improving their credit scores, among other things. What’s fascinating to see in your personal finances is how ripples in the water today can turn into waves in the future. That is the core of so much of the planning that goes into your retirement.

So, what can you do today that might have a larger impact on your retirement later down the road?


1. Create Specific, Measurable Retirement Goals

We encourage you to find your ideal, specific retirement. How old will you be? Where would you like to live? What will you spend your time doing? Who will you be with? What kind of lifestyle would you like to have? Try to transform your goal from something topical “I’d like to retire someday” to something that is derived from your passions and wants like “I’d like to retire at age 65 so that I can vacation with friends twice per year, live closer to my family, support my existing lifestyle, pay for my grandchild’s education, and give 10% of my income to charities in my community.” As important as it is to accumulate assets while in your working years, you can see that distributing and spending down your assets will likely take an entirely new set of skills. Being intentional with your vision of your retirement is incredibly important, and this thought exercise should serve as momentum to get your finances in line with your goals.


. Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Retirement Plan

First you need to understand what type of retirement plan your employer offers, if any. Common examples of retirement plans include: 401(k), 403(b), 457, SIMPLE IRAs, Profit Sharing Plans, Cash Balance Pension Plans, & Defined Benefit Pension Plans. Of course, self-employed individuals and small business owners may utilize other types of retirement plans. Once you know what type of plan your employer offers you should know how much they are contributing on your behalf. It is common in 401(k) plans to see an employer match the employee’s contributions (salary deferrals) up to a certain percentage of their salary. For instance, if your employer matches your deferrals up to 3% of your salary, then it might be wise to defer at least 3% of your salary into the plan to receive the matching contribution from your employer. In short, you need a plan in place to make sure that you are saving enough to meet your retirement goals. Even if your employer does not offer a retirement plan you may still take advantage of a personal retirement savings plan and potentially receive favorable tax treatment.


3. Diversify Taxes

Speaking of taxes, did you know that most retirement plans are tax-deferred? That means that you receive favorable tax treatment now by deducting your contributions and deferring taxes until you withdraw money from the plan. That favorable tax treatment now seems appealing but think about the long-term ramifications on your tax picture. Consider an employee who contributed $250,000 into their retirement plan during their working years, invested wisely, and went into retirement with $1,000,000 in a retirement account. The employee should feel good that they made wise decisions to end up in that position, but now consider whether they would have rather been taxed on the $250,000 in contributions or the $1,000,000 balance today. Furthermore, what if tax rates are higher in the employee’s retirement years than they were during their working years? We believe that putting all your eggs into a tax-deferred bucket may not be the wisest decision. If your employer offers a Roth (i.e. after-tax dollars) option for your retirement plan, or if you are under the earnings limit to contribute to a Roth IRA, it may be prudent to contribute after-tax dollars to the appropriate plan. With Roth contributions, you do not receive a tax deduction now, rather you contribute after-tax dollars to the plan and, assuming you meet the requirements, you are not taxed on that money or any related growth upon withdrawal in retirement.


4. Invest Your Retirement Savings Wisely

Investing is the piece of the puzzle where folks tend to feel least confident. Factoring in the stress of your career, taking care of your home, raising your family, and your endless list of other responsibilities, it would be reasonable to assume that you probably do not also have time to manage your investments effectively. If you are not confident that you can invest on your own, then you should ask for help from a professional. Your retirement is too important to make guesses with your investment strategy. Even if you do manage your own investments, you should understand that what you invest in (i.e. asset allocation) is just as important as how much you will have saved for retirement. Your asset allocation is the strategy for diversifying your investments across various asset classes. Some asset classes carry less risk than others but offer less growth potential. Other asset classes are viewed as having more growth potential but may tend to be riskier. Some investors value dividends and interest more than they value growth, and others feel the exact opposite. A good asset allocation matches your investments to your goals and considers your attitude towards risk. Organizing your goals, thoughts, risk tolerance, and investment needs allows you to formulate an investment plan that is tailored to you.



5. Consider How Social Security Will Impact You

The Social Security Administration has an online portal where you can estimate what your Social Security benefits will be in retirement. We encourage everyone to check their personal portal annually. You can review wages from previous years and view how your monthly benefit amount changes depending on which age you elect to start receiving benefits. When to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits is a big decision, so including this in your retirement planning is critical. Social Security can be a nice base level of recurring retirement income, but it is not designed to fully support you on its own. Layering on other sources of income such as pensions, Required Minimum Distributions, rental income, and investment income will give you good sense of what your total income will look like in retirement and how much you’ll need to dip into retirement savings to support your ideal lifestyle. You may have your opinions on Social Security but until we hear otherwise you should include Social Security benefits in your retirement plan.

6. Make Sure Your Business is Structured Correctly and is Protected

Business owners will know that your business’s legal structure will determine your tax rates, filing requirements, liability protection, fundraising abilities, and more. Business owners tend to have an entrepreneurial spirit and will be geared towards getting things done as quickly as possible. After all, when you run a business you seldom have time to stop your money-making momentum to work through a slow and sluggish problem; you aim to get the problem fixed and get back to bringing in revenue. What we have seen is that as businesses evolve over time, the business structure may no longer be appropriate for the owner’s needs. It is important to consider your current needs and future succession plans to make sure you have the appropriate business entity structure. Additionally, ensuring that your business is protected in the event of your disability or death, or that of a key employee, is paramount to any financial plan for a business owner.


If you’d like to discuss the steps that you can take today to set yourself up for a successful retirement, please contact the professional advisors at LGT Financial Advisors.

*Source: Gillespie, LG. (2023, September 27). Survey: 56% of Americans feel behind on saving for retirement. Bankrate. October 10, 2023 from


Josh Orton, CFP®

Josh joins LGT Financial Advisors with over 13 years of experience in the wealth management industry. He holds his CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certificate in addition to his Series 65 and Insurance licenses. Prior to LGT, Josh held positions as a planner and advisor at TD Ameritrade and other boutique Registered Investment Advisor firms in DFW. As a Senior Financial Advisor, Josh focuses on helping clients develop comprehensive financial plans and coaching them through the wealth management process. Josh obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance from the University of North Texas. When he is not busy helping his clients navigate the complex world of money management, Josh enjoys coaching his kids’ soccer and tee-ball teams, grilling, watching football, and home improvement projects.