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Top 5 Retirement Planning Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

I just read a quote from Oscar Wilde that said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.

Well, in that case, I’ve got quite a bit of “experience.”

To help reduce such “experience” from your life, consider these five common investment pitfalls -- and how to avoid them.

Mistake # 1: Waiting to Maximize Your Contributions

The sooner you start contributing the maximum amount allowed by your employer-sponsored retirement plan, the better your chances for building a significant savings cushion. By starting early, you allow more time for your contributions -- and potential earnings -- to compound, or build upon themselves, on a tax-deferred basis. For 2013, the maximum you can contribute to your plan is $17,500. If you are age 50 or older, you can sock away an additional $5,500. If you can't contribute the max, be sure to contribute enough to take full advantage of any company matching contributions.

Mistake # 2: Ignoring Specific Financial Goals

It is difficult to create an effective investment plan without first targeting a specific dollar amount and recognizing how much time you have to pursue that goal. To enjoy the same quality of life in retirement that you have become accustomed to during your prime earning years, you may need the equivalent of up to 80% of your final working year's salary for each year of retirement.

Mistake # 3: Fearing Stock Volatility

It is true that stock investments face a greater risk of short-term price swings than fixed-income investments. However, stocks have historically produced stronger earnings over the long-term. In general, the longer your investment time horizon, the more you might want to rely on stock funds.

Mistake # 4: Timing the Market

Some investors try to base investment decisions on daily price swings. But unless you have a crystal ball, "timing the market" could be very risky. A better idea might be to buy and hold investments for several years.

Mistake # 5: Failing to Diversify

Investing in just one fund or asset class could subject your investment portfolio to unnecessary risk. Spreading your money over a well-chosen mix of investments may help reduce the potential for loss during periods of market volatility. Diversification may offset losses in any one investment or asset category by taking advantage of possible gains elsewhere.

Now that you are aware of these five common investment errors, consider yourself lucky: you are now ready to benefit from other people's “experiences” -- without making the same mistakes.

I have personally made at least 4 of these 5 listed mistakes as I built upon my “experience” level.  How about you?

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Comment   |  6 years, 8 months ago from McLean, VA