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Fine-tuning your retirement goals
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30s and 40s. This period in people's lives tends to be busy. Often couples have children in school and are thinking about how they're going to pay for their kids' college education, how they're going to pay this month's bills, and at the same time keeping their career on track. "Planning for their future retirement is usually not one of their top goals," says financial planner Stacy Francis of Francis Financial in New York City. "Often they just don't even have time to really sit down and think about what their goals for retirement really are."

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Still, if they haven't yet done so, it's imperative that they start making plans for retirement now.

A couple -- or individual -- needs to sit down and identify their dreams for the future and think about how they're going to reach that goal. "The first thing they need to do is really get smart about what their living expenses are, especially debt," says Francis. "Then look at where their money is and maximize it to have as much return on investment as possible."

50s. Definitely closer to retirement, people in their 50s are looking at empty nests if they had children and, with any luck, are no longer dealing with paying for college tuition. Retirement is no longer a fantasy; it's just around the corner.

"They're usually making their highest income levels of their entire careers," says Francis. "This is when a lot of individuals really start to focus on building their retirement assets. One of the things that they really need to start doing is getting savvier about what their expenses will look like during retirement."

60s. Retirement is bearing down at this point. Those at this stage will fare best if they've been socking money away all along. It's a good time to make sure assets are held in a conservative mix of stocks and bonds. Although Social Security benefits are expected to change, they will likely still exist. What about medical expenses? Francis says, "It's really important for people to start to look into Medicare and understand what their options are."

And those who find themselves falling short financially might consider working a little longer, at least on a part-time basis. "A lot of people retire from their jobs but don't stop working completely," says Randles. "I think that needs to be put in the mix and thought seriously about. As we live longer, having that part-time job in the beginning can really help not outliving your savings."

 
 
Next: If you only had five more years to live ...
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