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Asset Allocation

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The "Red Zone" 401K Game Plan To Score in Retirement

You're under the center with 2:00 minutes to go. Your team needs to march 94 yards and score the winning touchdown. Your opponent is lined up in a potent defense. You've been behind the whole game. But due to a solid game plan you're working your way back to score. If you make the right moves and everyone does their job, you'll be basking in the end zone for the winning score.

Life is a lot like football. Our lives are measured by quarters. Pay close attention as I break out my ink board and pen. In the first 25 years of life we don't care too much about anything. Like a rookie in his first five seasons in the NFL we live life as if the money won't run out. We hit 50 and suddenly we don't have as much money as we thought. We're entering the "red zone" of retirement and may not make the "Financial Hall of Fame."

Twenty five years later and we're at 75. We're at the 3rd quarter of life. Have we beaten the potent debt defense? Are we about to score a retirement TD? If we're lucky we make it to a 100. That's right folks, the 4th and final quarter. The clock of life is running out. Will you have something to show for your life?

That football field is your life. The opponent is debt and inflation, two things you've been fighting the whole game of life. The red zone is between the ages of 55-65. But if you draw up a solid financial plan you'll come roaring back and score a winning retirement!

A Winning Game Plan

At least 150 million people in the U.S. save little or nothing for retirement. Another 76% of American families have no financial plan. When you consider most couples having 2 children the risk of having nothing in your retirement years is too high.

Here are 4 ways to put together a solid financial game plan.

Goal #1: Have a Vision

Where do you want to be during retirement? Would you like to sit on a beach in Costa Rica or work full time building a "Green Community?" Before you can march down that financial field you need to know what your ultimate goal is. This doesn't have to be a single goal. A vision is made up of several goals. Some of those goals may include living in a high end retirement home, owning a rental home in Arizona or traveling 6 months out of the year. Get a vision down and everything will flow from there.

Goal #2: Get Insurance

You must also include your healthcare concerns. If you pass on to that great big Super Bowl in the sky, who'll lead the team and handle the finances? No one likes to die before their time. But two things are certain. You'll pay your taxes and you'll eventually die. Be the true veteran you are and make sure you have some solid life insurance set up for your loved ones.

Goal #3: The Emergency Fund

When the starting quarterback gets hurt and God forbid the second stringer, each team has a third option. It's called the "Emergency Quarterback." This is the fail-safe option for every team. No coach wants to ever use this option, but it comes in handy when needed. Your emergency cash fund is very similar. When the transmission goes out or your medical insurance doesn't cover that broken leg, your emergency fund will pull your fat out of the fire. Financial planners estimate you should have 6-12 months worth of bills saved up in this fund. Here are two rules you must never forget. First, don't use the money for anything but an emergency. This fund is literally your final option. Hair, nail and golf appointments don't count! Second, add 2-5% of each pay check to this fund. Like momentum in the 4th quarter you want that sucker to grow!

Goal #4: Wealth Building Tools

In today's economy it's more important than ever to build wealth. Your pay check alone will not help you reach your retirement goals. I always tell my two teenage boys that there's nothing like making money while you're asleep. When you use wealth building tools like IRA's, 401K's and money market accounts you can't go wrong. These tools allow your money to grow each day until retirement. Sacrificing $2,100 to put into a 401K instead of a 65" flat screen is worth the "let down." The beauty of a 401K is that if you don't withdraw before retirement your money will grow. Listen to your Financial Planner. And when you enter the red zone of your golden years, there will be plenty of money for retirement.

Hand-Pick a Financial Coach

Let's face it. In football some coaches have it and others don't. The top guys are able to inspire and teach their players to grid iron greatness. Others couldn't get them to show up for practice. A Financial Planner is no different. The best ones inspire you to lay a solid plan for a secure retirement. Others will give you backroom advice that leads to nothing and will take your money. Here are a few top Financial Planning companies to check out. This is not an exhaustive list. I highly encourage you to do some research on your own. Ask your friends, relatives or coworkers if they know a great Financial Planner.

Here are 5 of the top Financial Planners.

1. Ameriprise Financial
(800) 297-7378

2. Lincoln Financial
800 237-3813

3. Raymond James

4. John Hancock

5. Vanguard

Get in the Game!

Curt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals didn't have a prayer of bouncing back. But right now he's playing like an All-Pro!

We all have our lapses in life. Like a football player, it can take some of us a little longer to get going in the financial game. But don't let age stop you. Plenty of folks 40 years and older manage to make a financial comeback. When you pick the right 401K and Financial Planner you'll win for your retirement.

Don't sit on the sidelines! Get in the game of your retirement. If you're 55-65 years old you're in the red zone. It's time to make that comeback drive for your financial future

Clyde McDade is a Financial Copywriter. He can be reached at

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