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Take Some Tips From Retirement 'Power Planners'

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Let's face it, when it comes to money management, some Americans are better at it than others.

Take the so-called retirement "power planners."

That's the name Los Angeles-based TransAmerica (TAI) has given to U.S. adults, regardless of income level, who have upped their retirement savings efforts creatively and strategically.

"Power planners are everyday people," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. "They are neighbors, friends, colleagues and people next to us in line at the supermarket -- not just people limited to the ranks of the ultra-affluent. What makes them exceptional is the time they take out of their daily activities to save and plan for retirement."

Transamerica's 14th annual Retirement Survey comes as Americans are starting to see slivers of sunlight on the economy and their own finances. According to the survey, which covers 3,650 full- and part-time workers, 55% of U.S. workers are either somewhat confident or very confident about their retirement prospects. That's up from 51% last year, although still below the 59% of Americans who said the same thing in 2007.

But the Great Recession and subsequent slow economic recovery have obviously taken a toll, as 62% of Americans say they are "less confident" about their retirement prospects since the recession began.

"Retirement confidence is on the rise, but people are still not technically ready for retirement," Collinson says. "Working longer and delaying full retirement is an excellent means of generating income and bridging a retirement savings shortfall, as well as an opportunity to stay active and involved. However, life's unforeseen circumstances, such as health issues or a job loss, can derail the best of intentions. Retirement readiness requires having a retirement strategy as well as a backup plan if retirement happens sooner than expected."

That's where those "power planners" enter the picture. Transamerica has tips based on what they do that you can do as well:
  • Calculate retirement savings needs. Factor in living expenses, health care needs, government benefits and long-term care.
  • Develop a retirement strategy and write it down. Envision your retirement, formulate a goal and have a backup plan in case retirement comes early due to an unforeseen circumstance.
  • Get educated about retirement investing. Learn about Social Security and government benefits.
  • Participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans, if available. Take full advantage of matching employer contributions, and defer as much as possible.
  • Consider retirement benefits as part of a total compensation. Ask an employer for a plan if they don't offer one.
  • Take advantage of the Saver's Credit. Make catch-up contributions if available.
  • Talk about retirement with family and close friends, and seek the services of a professional adviser if needed.

Do all those things and you can become a power planner too, likely earning an earlier and more financially abundant retirement in the bargain.

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