HUNT VALLEY, Md. (TheStreet) -- This may not be all that inspiring or insightful, but it may be the best advice you will ever get: Life is too long, but also too short, to be planning for 30-plus years down the road.
Before you retire you may have many other goals, including marriage, children, a house and new career, to name a few. If you try to plan for every goal, you may end up planning for none of them. So unless your only goal in life is to retire as young as possible, forget it.
Do not blow your budget thinking you are giving your children something more by sending them to expensive, private schools.
We could end the article here, but here's a little more detail on things you can do that will not derail retirement at a reasonable age and with a comfortable income:
- As early as possible you should begin to save at least the percent of your salary that your company matches in your company-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan. If there is no match, you should still contribute at least 6% of your pay. Do not use a dollar amount, but a percent of pay, so your annual contribution rises when your salary does.
- Live below your means. You hear this all the time, but it is hard to do. I am 53 years old, and when I was a kid my parents raised five children in a 1,200-square-foot house with one car, one wall telephone and one television. Today, we think the bare minimum is 2,000 square feet with a TV and phone for each person. If your pay after taxes and savings plan contribution is $3,000 per month, your budget should be around $2,800 per month.
- Stay out of debt except for a reasonable mortgage on a well-thought-out piece of real estate. Well-thought-out means you bought a house you can afford at a good price and in a desirable area.
- Do not blow your budget thinking you are giving your children something more by sending them to expensive schools. My best friend from high school and I are from families with four or more children. All nine went to public schools and public universities. All nine of these children today in their 50s would be considered incredibly successful. The key was what each did after their undergraduate studies.
- On your 40th birthday, sit down with a fee-only financial adviser and begin to develop your retirement plan. More than retirement, let's call it your financial independence plan.
- Work hard at your career and keep your skills and knowledge sharp. Yet with that in mind, always remember that your family comes first.
I have been helping people retire for 32 years, and I assure you the ones who have been most successful at retirement have been those who focused on being passionate and skilled about what they do. The best retirees are not those who started planning to retire at age 20 or 30, but those who were passionate about their career, concerned about others and desired to make a positive contribution to society. You do not want to plan to retire so you can play 24 hours a day; your goal should be to reach financial independence so you have the flexibility to find real fulfillment in life.
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Andrew Tignanelli, CFP� CPA, is president of
, based in Hunt Valley, Md., and a member of NAPFA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.