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The 7 Deadly Sins of Retirement Planning

Human flaws are apparent in all areas of personal finance. They can throw you off course during your earning years, and they can do lasting damage as you approach retirement. All of these retirement planning sins can set you back from achieving important goals. If you have a nagging feeling that you could be doing a better job of retirement planning, check out these seven offenses and learn how to get back on track.

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A miniature man and a miniature woman standing on a pile of bills.Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock


When retirement planning becomes complicated than you originally thought, it’s important to get help. Being prideful and going it alone leads to irrational decisions. A professional such as a Certified Financial Planner can help with your individual retirement plan. “Someone not doing this full time will be less likely to spot trouble,” says Larry Luxenberg, managing partner and chief investment officer of Lexington Avenue Capital Management. Examples of trouble spots are asset allocation and portfolio diversification. “When an amateur gets these wrong,” Luxenberg says, “it could spell the difference between a comfortable retirement and a much delayed one—or worse.” So swallow your pride when it comes to building a long-term portfolio, and get help if you know deep inside that you need it.

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The concept of gender gap between employment and promotion. Miniature people standing on a pile of coins.Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock


Envy drives people to compete with others and can thwart a retirement plan. “Driving new cars, acquiring a home in a fashionable neighborhood, and sending the kids to private school to keep up with their friends are surefire ways to minimize your retirement saving potential,” says Mark Petersen, CPA, CFP, and vice president of affluent wealth planning for Carson Wealth. Competing may also transfer to investing. Making risky bets and stock picking could lead to a financial disaster. The better course is to forget whom you’re envious of in the short term and invest in broad categories of asset classes to minimize your risk.

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Money and Business Concept. Businessman miniature figure standing, looking and thinking from the top of stack of coinsMontri Thipsorn/Shutterstock


Don’t let anger cloud your judgment when leaving a job. Often, irrational decisions are made in the heat of anger. Leaving a job without sufficient planning could wreck retirement savings. “You may be living off that savings if your job search takes longer than expected, and voluntarily leaving employment may disqualify you for receiving unemployment benefits,” says Petersen. In addition, paying for COBRA insurance is generally more expensive than an employer group plan insurance premium, which is often paid by an employer. If you have to leave, it’s best to do it amicably. You’ll need a referral.

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Two miniature men walking on two piles of coins.Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock


It’s not unusual for investors to get greedy and chase returns, often to their detriment. “Once a stock or new investment vehicle starts moving, it’s tempting to jump on board,” Luxenberg says. “Your friends and family are all making great money at it. Why not you?” Unfortunately, most people wait until the trend is well-established before they plunge in. “Most investors buy the right things but do it at the wrong time, and that’s enough to sink a portfolio,” he says.

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A miniature man standing in front of two paths with a stack of coins of different heights.Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock


Sloth represents laziness, and laziness is not a good trait in investing. “Most investors don’t spend enough time on their retirement planning and don’t review their options sufficiently enough,” Luxenberg says. You have to do your homework, know your options, and determine which are best, he says. “When to draw from retirement accounts, how to invest, what investment vehicles to use—all have tax implications, for example,” Luxenberg says. Once you have a plan in place, it’s important to stay on top of your investments through your retirement years. These are the cheap towns you’ll actually want to retire in.

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Miniature people, family standing on broken glass of jar filled with coins, financial, money saving, bankrupt, investment concept.noppawan09/Shutterstock


Gluttony is a cousin to greed. And being overly greedy in the market tends to lead to investment failures instead of successes. It’s much better to be goal-oriented. “People who have goals often strive to reach them,” says Randy Warren, chief investment officer of Warren Financial. “Just wanting to make more money is not really a goal. That’s gluttony. … If you are goal-oriented, it will affect your investing strategy. So you may not need to shoot for the moon in terms of investment returns.”

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miniature people. The man standing on top of the coins and the car behind them. kang hyejin/Shutterstock


Make sure your retirement planning goals are realistic. Don’t lust for what you can’t have or can’t achieve because you might put too much at risk in the effort to get it. Say you currently have $1 million in your 401(k). If you tell your financial planner you want $5 million in three years so you can retire, “you’re lusting after an unrealistic objective,” says Warren. “Investing is not wishing for something you don’t have,” he says. Use this retirement planning calculator to create a realistic plan. Next, read up on these retirement facts that you need to take seriously.

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