Small changes can make a big impact on retirement planning


UTICA, Mich. – Statistics related to retirement can be downright discouraging.

About 45% of Americans said they worry every day or almost every day about saving enough money to retire, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, 28% of Americans in their 60s and 37% in their 50s have less than $50,000 in retirement savings, according to a TD Ameritrade survey.

It can all seem overwhelming, especially these days with the impact coronavirus has had on the economy and on many people’s retirement savings. But in the midst of the gloom there remains hope because there are always small changes they can make with their financial planning that will have a big impact down the line when it comes to retirement.

So, instead of throwing up their hands in despair, it’s important to stay positive and make continual financial improvements that will allow them to stay the course on planning, and in the process ease any concerns and doubts they may harbor.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to do that:

Start growing their money – now. Lottery winners are the rare exception, but most everyone else needs to count on a slow and steady savings and investing plan to achieve their financial goals. The sooner people start contributing to a 401(k), an individual retirement account or other investments, the more time they will have to grow that money into a tidy retirement nest egg. Ideally, if an employer offers a 401(k) match, then an employee should contribute enough to earn the full amount of that match. But if they don’t feel they can afford to do that right now, make sure to at least contribute something. Every little bit will help, and each year they can reevaluate whether they are able to increase the percentage of contribution. Once again, it’s the little things now that can make a big difference later.

Preserve what is saved. Young people can take investment risks with at least a little impunity, knowing that if the market takes a tumble they have a few decades to recover. Those in or near retirement don’t have such luxuries. A big hit to their portfolio can be devastating in their later years, especially if they’re already starting to draw money from their savings to live on. Once again, a few minor adjustments are in order as they try to preserve what they have. A financial professional should be able to help them with asset-protection strategies and tax-efficient strategies.

Be prepared for long-term care expenses. People might not be giving a lot of serious thought to long-term care, but they should since 48% of Americans who reach age 65 will require long-term care at some point during the remainder of their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The cost of that care can bring even the sturdiest of portfolios to the edge of ruin. For example, the average annual cost of a private room in a nursing home is $102,200, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. The average for an assisted-living facility is $48,612. So, another small shift in thinking to include long-term care in retirement planning could pay major dividends to the overall health of the retirement portfolio.

No matter what the market conditions are, or what season of life a person is in, they want to make sure that any changes they make – small or large – advance them toward the goal of a happy and secure retirement.

Albert Lalonde, a financial planner and investment adviser representative, is the founder of Kaizen Financial Group. Lalonde, a fiduciary, was inspired to enter the financial industry after watching his parents navigate their own retirement with no one to properly advise them. He has passed the Series 65 securities exam and holds an insurance and health license. Lalonde graduated from Montana State University, from which he earned two bachelor’s degrees. For more information, visit