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February 12, 2010
By John Trent
For many, the concept of retirement is too daunting.
Where to begin? What to do? Is it worth it?
Michelle Kelley, University Human Resources benefits manager, has heard these questions and many more like them. Her message, during the upcoming “Planning for Retirement Week” on Feb. 22-26, which will feature panel discussions and informational seminars on retirement open to all University employees, is quite simple.
“Even making an effort just once a year to make sure your portfolio is diversified, or re-balancing with retirement vendors … taking a look at your goals and asking yourself, ‘Am I saving enough?’ … can make all of the difference,” she said. “During the year, pay attention. Forgetting about your retirement during the year is one of the worst things that can happen.”
Kelley said “Planning for Retirement Week” will highlight the importance of saving for retirement, as well as provide ideas and counseling to assist individuals with retirement planning. She said that University employees already participate in a defined benefit (PERS) or defined contribution (RPA), which provides the foundation for employees’ retirement.
“But, usually that isn’t enough,” she said, noting that not everyone will be eligible for social security. “Most of us will need to add to our retirement savings in order to have enough to live comfortably and meet our retirement goals.”
She said the week will look at a variety of employee needs.
“Five or 10 years out from retirement, one year out, forty years out from retirement … our goal with ‘Retirement Week’ is to make the information relevant to anybody,” she said. She added that the recent economic downturn has probably added a layer of anxiety for individuals who have recently had retirement on their minds: “We want people to have all of the information they will need … and if it helps them make decisions during a difficult time, then even better.”
Not surprisingly, employees’ confidence that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement has dwindled in recent years. According to a national survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, about 25 percent of workers were very confident in 2005 that they had enough money to live comfortably in retirement; by 2009, the number had dropped to just 13 percent.
If there has been one positive associated with the worst economic recession the country has suffered in a generation, it’s the fact that more Americans are trying harder to save money for retirement than just a few years ago. The same survey indicated that in 1994, 57 percent of workers in America reported that they or their spouse had saved money for retirement; in 2009, the number had grown to 75 percent.
Kelley said the overriding goals for “Planning for Retirement Week” are:
In addition to the seminars and events, advisors from all three retirement plan sponsors will be on campus and available throughout the week to assist you in developing a plan for retirement, performing a retirement check-up and/or diversifying your portfolio. Information on scheduling an appointment with a retirement advisor is available at the UNR HR Retirement Counseling webpage.
“Even if you only update your beneficiaries once every year,” Kelley said, “you’re still ahead of the game. Taking only one hour each year, once you’ve learned the basics of how to manage your retirement fund, it does become like second nature for many people, which is a very good thing.”