How to Successfully Plan for Retirement

Tips to help you plan for retirement and keep your goals on track.

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Throughout the years, I have helped many people retire. Interestingly, some were significantly more prepared than others. Here are the five major differences between those that retired well and those that didn't. Use it as a checklist for your planning.

Compile your bucket list. This should be a list of all the things you could possibly want to do. It should include different categories such as things (possessions you want to buy), experiences (things that create memories), trips (places you want to visit), and ways to give back (charities you want to give time or money to). From this list, you will create some of your life's most cherished memories. Also, because you will have this list written, the items on it will more likely get accomplished.

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Complete your financial plan. Use financial planning software or hire a financial planner and put numbers to paper. Think of this plan as your road map for the rest of your life. It should incorporate assets such as taxable investments, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s. It should include sources of retirement income like pensions, Social Security, rental income, and any potential consulting income if you choose to continue working part time.

Invest as much as you can toward your retirement goals. It sounds obvious, but many people just try to hit a number for their retirement goal. I would much rather you not try to hit a number, but greatly exceed that number. That way, if something happens along the way, like a significant market downturn or better yet, a significant opportunity, you have the assets to achieve your goal.

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Diversify your portfolio for success. You should not just choose a bunch of stocks and bonds. For the ultimate retirement lifestyle, you really want a portfolio that will grow in many different markets and won't let you down when the market has a significant fall—and we all know that is inevitable. The way to build the ultimate portfolio is to have as many asset classes as possible in your investment mix. Your portfolio should include large-, mid-, and small-cap growth and value stocks and government, corporate, and high-yield bonds all from the United States.

Next include investments in those same assets as above, but now from outside the U.S. You should also add currencies, commodities, and global real estate. Add in emerging market stock and emerging market bonds. You should also look to investments that can reduce your portfolio volatility like long/short funds, absolute managers, and even managed futures. This mix of asset classes may seem out of the main stream, but when you look at the numbers, this type of portfolio will significantly lower your risk and can raise your return.

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Monitor your plan often. Few people start with a plan in the first place, but when you have one, it is much easier to see if you are on track. Annually, you should check to see if your assets and your plan are heading in the same direction. If they aren't, you may have to make a slight course correction. But, having that information regularly is invaluable.

People don't plan to fail in retirement, they often just fail to plan. Commit to these strategies and you will be on road to retiring in style before you know it.

Good luck and happy investing.

Kelly Campbell , CFP® and Accredited Investment Fiduciary, is founder of Campbell Wealth Management, a Registered Investment Advisor in Alexandria, Va. Campbell is also the author of Fire Your Broker , a controversial look at the broker industry written as an empathetic response to the trials and tribulations many investors have faced as the stock market cratered and their advisers abandoned their responsibilities to help them weather the storm.