A recent survey shows 27% of Americans have already taken a withdrawal from their retirement savings account and 20% are contributing less to their retirement account than before the pandemic.

Financial experts say that’s not good, and now’s the time to turn that around.

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Household debt is at its lowest in 40 years. The pandemic forced many to save more money than they had before — mostly because there was nothing to do.

“My concern is, do we revert as Americans back to our old behavior of debt spending and not having enough for that rainy day or will Americans be more cautious moving forward?”

Jim Degaetano is a certified financial planner in Carlisle. He says you should be setting aside money for your future now.

“You can’t just all of a sudden say I’m not going to plan at all for retirement and just retire one day. There is a process. The sooner you do it the better,” Degaetano said.

A good way to start, write down your goals, focusing on three key things; a what, a when, and a how.

“What it is, how much money it might cost, when you want to achieve it and how,” Degaetano said. “If you write them down you have a higher probability of success.”

Once you establish what your goals are, prioritize them and set up a budget. In his book “The Fruitful Retirement,” Jim uses the shape of fruit to describe different types of spending.
at the bottom are your needs. In the middle are your wants and at the top are your legacy expenses.

“When you create a budget and you break those down your fruit correlates to where you fall short. If you fall short in the needs department you’re a pear, pears are fat on the bottom.” Degaetano added. “If you fall short in the wants department meaning you have enough income coming in to cover your needs but not your wants and desires or entertainment or travel, you are an apple.”

Your ideal fruit — the strawberry.

“A strawberry means you have enough income to cover your needs and wants and it may cover all of your legacy or maybe not. But it means you’re in a pretty good fiscal position because your needs and wants are covered through the income you generated that comes in each month.”

Jim says taking control of your spending is the key to financial success. But retiring is more than that. It can be a very emotional process and you need to prepare yourself for that too.

“A fruitful retirement is a fruitful life. I actually have exercises in my book to help internally look at what their skills are, what they’re good at, what brings them happiness and joy.”

One more piece of advice from Jim — assemble a team. Surround yourself with professionals who can guide you through retirement.