Do you make retirement planning resolutions? I do. And about half the time, I don't keep them. But I try.
Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest provider of 401(k) plans, said in a survey released this week that 54 percent of Americans plan to make financial resolutions for 2014. That's up from 35 percent in 2009, a year when many of us were just resolving to do what we could to keep our heads above water.
Overall, the Fidelity study found that more people are feeling better about their finances this year, with 26 percent saying they are in a better financial situation today. Last year at this time, only 19 percent could say that. Nevertheless, nearly half -- 49 percent -- said they were concerned that economic and political uncertainty may hurt their chances of reaching their financial goals in 2014.
Of the 54 percent of people who said they are making financial resolutions for 2014, 54 percent said they are resolving to save more money, and of those, 55 percent -- about 16 percent of the total surveyed -- said they are focusing on saving more for retirement. While that strikes me as a pretty small slice of the pie, Ken Hevert, Fidelity's vice president of retirement products, found a nugget of encouragement there. He says people are more balanced in their savings goals this year, with more people focusing on valuable short-term goals like getting rid of debt or building an emergency fund.
"I'd attribute this to lessons learned over the past five years," Hevert says. "By balancing the whole picture, you put yourself in a position not to raid the retirement nest egg, and that's a bright spot that we're seeing this year."
The survey also asked people what would make it easier for them to save for retirement. The three most frequently offered suggestions were:
The ability to calculate success. Hevert says there are many tools that will help people do this, and anyone saving for retirement should avail themselves of the do-it-yourself versions or ask their financial adviser to do it for them.
Recognition for reaching interim goals. Hevert suggests one possibility for rewarding yourself could be choosing a rewards credit card that provides a percentage of payback that you can safely spend on something fun.
Help breaking down the big retirement goal into smaller pieces. Hevert says that if you feel like you need this kind of help, you might be a particularly good candidate for a target-date fund that keeps your asset allocation on track as you age.