As unemployment nears 10 percent and with no end in sight for the worst downturn in the job markets since the Great Depression, a structural change is occurring in the American workforce that is forcing many of us to become more self-reliant on matters of retirement.
The reality is that the U.S. economy is not simply going through a cycle but is undergoing a structural change that will alter for years the employment picture.
Companies are becoming conservative in their hiring practices, and managers are constantly looking for ways to stay lean in their employment practices.
What we are seeing is a shift towards an era of relying more on contract workers, part-time employees, and consultants to make up the bulk of the workforce rather than full-time employees.
And many of these workers will not be provided any retirement benefits.
The changing dynamics of the workforce is forcing individuals to pay more attention to their retirement plans.
Workers who are not employed with full-time benefits will now need to set aside an even greater percentage of their income for retirement through disciplined savings.
Traditional pension plans will become a less dependable way to build future income. And with Social Security facing future funding problems, future retirees are, more than ever, on their own.
The steps towards a retirement strategy are straight forward but require thought. Do the following as a start:
1. Add up your assets that are available to fund retirement
2. Determine how much you can save each year
3. Make assumptions about rates of return and inflation rates
4. Decide how much inflation adjusted income you need in retirement
5. Assess where you are (and what you will do if you have less than you need)
If you find that you have less funds than you need, you will need to make some hard choices.
You may choose to take more risk in your investment portfolio to gain greater returns.
But more risk means more possibility of loss.
You may find that your past goals simply need to be adjusted; not a pleasant realization to be sure. But its important that you confront the truth. A successful strategy looks at reality and moves forward from there.
The time is now to put your plan in place.
In the world we live in today, it is clear that you must count on yourself and not others for that comfortable retirement you hope for. Company pensions are a help, but not a guarantee. Social Security can provide assistance but who is to say what that will look like in the future. Develop a plan and execute.
You have control over your future; rely on yourself to make your dreams a reality.
Michael A. Yoshikami, Ph.D., CFP®, is Founder, President, and Chief Investment Strategist of YCMNET Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisory firm (www.ycmnet.com). He oversees all investment and research activities of YCMNET. He is a respected lecturer speaking frequently on market issues, tactical asset allocation, and investment strategy. Michael and YCMNET were ranked as one of the top investment 100 advisors in the United States for 2009 by Barrons. He appears regularly on CNBC and CNBC Asia and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.