Forget Spring Cleaning: Scrub Your Budget Instead

Spring is here! Time for spring cleaning?

People everywhere are shedding the effects of winter. But what about dusting off your long-term financial plan? April is National Financial Literacy Month—the perfect time to spring into action when it comes to planning your financial future. Moreover, if you already have a plan, this is a great opportunity to take another look.

Social Security benefits are a strong foundation for a future retirement income but it is just a foundation. In order to have a successful retirement you must build on top of Social Security. According to a 2011 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, more than half of workers report that they've put away less than $25,000 in total savings and investments. A whopping 29 percent have less than $1,000 saved for the future.

If you haven't started already, now is the time to begin saving for your retirement—no matter what your age. If retirement is near, you'll want to jump into the fast lane right away. If you're younger and retirement seems a lifetime away, it's still in your best interest to begin saving now, as compound interest will work to your advantage. Experts agree that saving when you're young will make a world of difference when the time comes to draw on your retirement savings.

Don't take our word for it. You can check out the numbers yourself. A great place to start figuring out how much you will need for retirement is to learn how much you could expect from Social Security.

You can do that in minutes with Social Security's online Retirement Estimator, which offers an instant and personalized estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits based on your earnings record.

We encourage saving for retirement, but there are reasons to save for every stage of life. A great place to go for help is MyMoney.gov, a federal government website dedicated to teaching Americans the basics about financial education. Whether you plan to buy a home, balance your checkbook, or invest in a 401(k) plan, these online resources can help you.

Another excellent resource is the Ballpark E$timator, an online tool that takes complicated issues—like projected Social Security benefits and earnings assumptions on savings—and turns them into language and numbers that are easy to understand.

Spring into action!  Get started right now, using these and other tools available on the Social Security website.

—Kirk Larson, Social Security Western Washington