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Ask the Experts

Doing the Math for Retirement

Planning is crucial to feeling financially secure after you stop working

Retirement planning offers peace of mind. — WIN-Images/Corbis

Q. I've heard all kinds of numbers thrown around when it comes to how much a couple needs in retirement. What's the truth?

See also: AARP retirement calculator.

A. It's different for everyone. You've got to sit down in advance and estimate as best as you can how much you'll need to live comfortably in retirement, taking into account your age when you stop working, costs of the lifestyle you foresee, your Social Security benefit and other factors. You can do this on your own or with guidance from a financial planning professional.

To get started, visit a website that offers retirement planning resources. Such sites include the Choose to Save Ballpark E$timator, AARP's Retirement Nest Egg Calculator and the Social Security Administration's planning page.

Ken McDonnell, director of the American Savings Education Council, says people who've done a retirement savings calculation tend to have higher savings goals than people who haven't.

And doing the math can be good for peace of mind, says the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute. People who've made a calculation are more likely than those who haven't to say they're very confident they'll have enough money for a comfortable retirement (26 percent vs. 11 percent).

To raise awareness about the need to look ahead, the nonprofit National Retirement Planning Coalition, composed of more than a dozen retirement-oriented groups, has designated April 11-15 as "National Retirement Planning Week."

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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