Rely on a single source of retirement income. While most working Americans get their income from a single source, retirees shouldn't count on any one income stream. "You should have between four and six sources of retirement income, and don't count on any one of them," says Gilgen. Guaranteed sources of retirement income include Social Security payments, pensions, and annuity payments. Other common retirement income sources include 401(k)'s, IRAs, personal investment accounts, cash investments such as savings accounts and CDs, and rental or royalty income. Diversifying income sources ensures that if any one of them loses value, you will still have some money coming in.
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Don't save enough. There are many reasons why it's difficult to save for retirement. A home purchase, college costs, and even everyday expenses often compete with your retirement savings. A few easy ways to grow your nest egg include setting up a direct deposit into a retirement account, saving enough in a 401(k) account to receive an employer match, and remaining in a job long enough to be vested or eligible to keep the match. If you haven't saved throughout your lifetime, you generally can't make up for it by investing in high-risk and potentially high-reward funds close to retirement. "It's hard to make up for a lack of saving in a couple of years," says Christenson. "It's taking a huge risk and it usually works against people."
Fail to protect your savings. As you approach retirement, you should shift your focus from growing your nest egg to protecting it. "When you get within five or 10 years of retirement, you need to start reducing your risk," says Christenson. Consider shifting some of your assets into more conservative investments. Avoid loans and early withdrawals from retirement accounts, the latter of which come with a 10 percent tax penalty and regular income tax on the amount withdrawn. Also, try to minimize the fees and taxes deducted from your retirement savings. Shop around for low-cost investments, contribute as much as possible to tax-advantaged traditional and Roth retirement accounts, and develop a retirement account withdrawal strategy that minimizes the income taxes you pay as you take money out.
Neglect to support a surviving spouse. One spouse often lives considerably longer than the other. "You don't want the unhealthy spouse to use up all your assets and leave the healthy spouse destitute," cautions Joe Luby, a certified financial planner and president of Financial Solutions Inc., in Las Vegas. Find out what your survivor's payments will be from Social Security and any pension or annuity plans you have. If that won't be enough support for the surviving spouse, you may want to purchase life or long-term care insurance. Your retirement savings needs to last throughout both of your lifetimes.