Avoid Retirement Poverty

4. Demand a match: Any employer serious about looking out for the welfare of its employees should be contributing something to its employees' retirement security. That could be in the form of a traditional pension plan, but in most cases it will be in the form of a matching contribution to a 401(k) or some other retirement savings plan.

If your employer contributes nothing to your retirement, then look elsewhere for a new job. Yes, it's a tough job market right now, but that will change. So gear up now for a job search, and then move when opportunity allows.

5. Save first, and then calculate later: Retirement planning experts often talk about the need to calculate "The Number." That is the amount you will need to accumulate to reach your retirement income goal. And they are correct. At some point, you will need to know how much you should be saving to achieve your retirement goals.

But for the beginning saver, The Number can be overwhelming and does more to discourage than encourage. My belief is that it's best to get started saving first, establish momentum and then step up the savings effort before calculating The Number. Only do the calculation after you've built a bit of a nest egg.

I know that despite my best efforts, there will be some readers who still doubt they have any hope of saving anything for retirement. All I can say is that I've seen it work with people of modest means.

In my financial planning practice, the people I've met in the best financial shape have not been necessarily those with the biggest salaries. Rather, it's often folks with modest incomes who saved little by little and paid down debt the same way. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen.

Otherwise, what's your choice? Working until your 80s, or retiring into poverty?

It's time to get started.

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

David McPherson is a Certified Financial Planner professional and founder of Four Ponds Financial Planning LLC (www.fourpondsfinancial.com) in Falmouth and Mansfield, Mass. Contact McPherson at david@fourpondsfinancial.com

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