Dust Off Your Financial Plan

Well, spring has sprung, but before you get started with spring cleaning, perhaps another matter deserves some 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. If you already have a plan, this is a great opportunity to look at it and make sure you're still on track to reach your financial goals.

According to a 2013 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the past few years have seen a sharp decline in Americans' confidence about their retirement savings. Only 13 percent of workers feel very confident about having enough for a comfortable retirement and 28 percent are not at all confident. More than half of workers have less than $25,000 in total savings and investments.

If you haven't begun to save for retirement, now is a good time to start—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. Here's how much the magic of compound interest will work to your advantage: A 25-year old who begins saving $100 a month and earns a modest five percent interest will have more than $150,000 at age 65. 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 just take our word for it. You can check out the numbers yourself. A great way to start figuring out how much you will need for retirement is to use 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 www.mymoney.gov (an official U.S. government website dedicated to teaching Americans the basics of finances).  Whether you are looking for information about buying a home, balancing your checkbook, or investing in your 401(k) plan, the resources on www.mymoney.gov can help you.

The Ballpark Estimator is another excellent online tool. It makes complicated issues—like projected Social Security benefits and earnings assumptions on savings—easy to understand.

If you have to choose between scrubbing down the house or scrubbing your budget to get your financial house in order, we recommend putting off the cleaning one more day. Get started on planning your future right now at www.socialsecurity.gov and don’t arrive at retirement unprepared.

Contributor Kirk Larson is the public affairs specialist for Social Security Western Washington. To get help at your nearest local Social Security office, visit www.ssa.gov/locator.