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A perfect recipe for retirement

Succulent turkey. Savory stuffing. Green bean casserole. Sweet potato and pumpkin pie.

Every family has its Thanksgiving dinner traditions. With a carefully followed recipe, everyone around the table can enjoy their favorite dishes.

If the cook plans poorly and waits to throw the bird in the oven at the last minute, they will end up with a turkey of a dish.

The same can be said for financial planning and preparing for retirement.

Follow the perfect recipe to be rewarded with a juicy retirement.

Ingredients: one part Social Security earnings, one part savings, a pinch of planning.

First, start the retirement casserole with a visit to the “Retirement Estimator” at ssa.gov/estimator. As useful as a food processor, the estimator gives an instant projection of what a person can expect to receive in retirement benefits.

Just plug in some simple information and the estimator uses past earnings and estimated future earnings to project about how much a person will get when they retire. Like an experienced cook, people can experiment with the recipe and plug in different future earnings and retirement dates until it’s just the way they want it.

Next, fold in the savings. The earlier a person begins, the better off they will be.

Social Security replaces about 40 percent of the average worker’s pre-retirement earnings. Most financial advisors say people will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably.

To supplement Social Security people also will need savings, investments, pensions or retirement accounts to make sure to have enough money to enjoy retirement. Visit the “Ballpark Estimator” at choosetosave.org/ballpark for tips to help save.

If a person has a pension from their employer or a 401k, IRA or similar retirement fund, they need to be sure to add that into the mix.

Like to taste as you cook? Then set up a “my Social Security” account that can be logged into anytime to check reported earnings and projected benefit estimates. If something doesn’t taste just right - if earnings are reported incorrectly or a person finds they need to save more to meet retirement goals - there’s still time to make corrections before the retirement casserole is done.

Once a person has added the ingredients of Social Security earnings, personal savings, and any pensions you may have, it’s time to let the retirement casserole bake.

If the cook pulls the retirement casserole out to find it a little underdone, just put it back in for a bit longer. Delaying retirement can increase benefits and give more time to build up savings.

To learn more, read the Social Security publication entitled “When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits”. It provides helpful information regarding the things everyone should consider when making a decision on when to collect retirement benefits. People can find it, along with our other useful publications, at socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

When the retirement casserole is ready, enjoy it! Everyone deserves a comfortable retirement. Following a traditional Thanksgiving recipe carefully can ensure a satisfying meal. In the same way, following the financial planning recipe will help people achieve a more fulfilling retirement. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Ed Evans is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Seattle

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