7 habits of confident retirees

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Here are the “Seven Essential Habits of Highly Confident Retirees.”

They are culled from BlackRock Investments’ survey of retirees from companies for which BlackRock manages 401(k) plans.

BlackRock focused on respondents who considered themselves “very confident” that their retirement income would be there as long as they needed it. Here’s what BlackRock found is right about these savers’ retirement planning, followed by the percentage of respondents who adopted these habits:

  1. Increased retirement savings whenever they were able: 90 percent.
  2. Made the most of their 401(k) plan, possibly including maxing out the  employer match: 87 percent.
  3. Estimated their income needs before they retired: 84 percent.
  4. Regularly reviewed their savings strategy: 83 percent.
  5. Changed their mix of investments as they got older: 79 percent.
  6. Started saving early in their work life: 77 percent.
  7. Saved the maximum amount of money permitted by their 401(k) plan: 73 percent.

BlackRock did this survey to help its own clients, who are mostly large employers, strengthen the retirement plans these firms offer employees. It summarized the findings by offering some suggestions that help employees get the most out of the plans available to them. Even if your employer didn’t get this message, you can still follow these pieces of advice from BlackRock.

Talk to retirees. Identify retirees you believe are managing their retirement well. Ask for their advice. What are they doing right? What would they have done differently?

Add a secure income option. BlackRock found that retirees who also had an old-fashioned defined benefit pension were more likely to feel confident than those who didn’t. It recommended that retirees who don’t have a pension should consider putting some of their savings into an annuity or other guaranteed income plan.

Make it automatic. If your employer offers the option of automatic savings increases, sign up for them. You won’t miss what you never had.

Re-evaluate target date funds. Many 401(k) plans are making target date funds the default savings option, but as BlackRock says, “Not all target date funds are created equal.” If yours isn’t performing well or the expense rate is high, switch to something else.

Educate yourself. BlackRock found that the most successful savers — retired or still working — are involved in the plan and knowledgeable about investing in general.