As the back-to-school and back-to-business fall season approaches, it’s a good time to take stock of your financial goals.

Whether you are planning for your own retirement, helping your children pay for college, or have another long-term goal in mind, your financial well-being has a big impact on your quality of life.

According to a recent Forbes.com article, 33 percent of Americans have zero saved for retirement – that’s right $0. While how much you’ll need to save for retirement varies, AARP Magazine suggests new retirees will need at least 100 percent of their pre-retirement income for the first 10 years after they stop working. Other experts recommend having $1 million, or more, saved.

So how do you ensure you’re saving enough for your own golden years while helping your children with college costs or other expenses? Financial education is a great place to start. Your local credit union offers free, online education modules that cover everything from budgeting and college financing options to retirement planning and when to start collecting social security.

It’s also important to act on what you learn, sooner rather than later. Here are a few simple steps you can take today to help you prepare for the next stage of life, whatever it may be:

1. Look at Your Current Financial Habits. If you feel like the money is spent as quickly as you earn it, you’re not alone. The good news is that it is much easier to spot opportunities when we look closely at our spending habits. For example, could higher-rate loans be consolidated to decrease monthly payments and get out of debt sooner? Are there some expenses that could be done away with altogether? Many memberships or subscriptions automatically renew, making small monthly costs easy to forget about.

2. Make Saving Automatic. Once you carefully examine where your money goes, you will likely find at least a few items that can be consolidated or trimmed out of your budget.

This leaves room to save, even a modest sum, on a regular basis. Your local financial institution and employer can help set-up an automatic payroll deduction to ensure that you are paying yourself first by directing a portion of your paycheck into a savings account. Any amount going into savings is better than none, especially when you consider that nearly half of all Americans don’t have cash to pay for a $400 emergency, according to marketwatch.com.

3. Build a Long-Term Plan. After you establish a steady savings habit, you’ll want to look at other options that can help you earn more as your nest egg grows. Check with your local credit union or bank, as many offer free consultations with financial advisors on-site. A trusted financial partner can help you understand the different investment options available to you and develop a plan that can help you reach your college savings, retirement, and other long-term goals.

While financial planning may seem daunting, taking the first step today can make a huge difference in your quality of life later. You may be surprised by how quickly even small changes in your spending habits can add up. Here’s to a more comfortable retirement and secure financial future.

Marc Prasch is vice president of retail operations at Fort Knox Federal Credit Union.



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