[IMGCAP(1)]If the stock market and your clients’ declining 401(k) balances are making them feel like they’ll never be able to fully retire or become financially stable, they’re not alone.

As the market is still on a rollercoaster and much is out of people’s individual control, there are some important things you and your clients should be doing. The below financial and retirement resolutions are steps you and your clients should be aiming for in 2011:

Clients in Their 20's, 30's and 40's

1. If your clients haven't started already, they should open an IRA and/or fund a 401(k). These are generally the years when it's toughest to scrape together the cash for investing, but starting young and having decades for tax-deferred growth could provide a nice six or seven figure portfolio in retirement. At a minimum, your clients should save enough to get their full company match.

2. Since they will likely have two to four decades before they'll need this money, they ought to consider investing 70 to 80 percent in equities or stocks. They should not be too conservative with their allocation.

3. Remind clients that their ability to earn an income is their greatest asset so they should think about going back to school, continuing their education, networking and doing their best to make sure their job, company and career offer growth potential to carry them into their 60's and 70's. To navigate the employment landscape, they will need to be nimble, and be constantly learning and continually reinventing themselves to stay employable.

4. Like people in their 50 and 60’s, it's a good idea for them to reduce and pay down any non-deductible debt such as credit cards and auto loans. They should try to be debt free, perhaps with their mortgage being the only exception, by the time they retire. 

5. Finally, if they haven’t done so already, you shoiuld arrange for them to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney to have basic estate documents drawn up, including wills, health care proxies, living wills and powers of attorney. Additionally, make sure your clients have adequate life, disability, homeowners, and umbrella liability insurance to  protect them and their families.

Clients in Their 50's and 60's

1. If your clients haven’t maxed out their 401(k) or 403(b) contributions at work, they are eligible to take advantage of what is known as the catch-up provision. In essence, if they haven’t saved as much as legally possible every year they’ve been working, they are able to contribute an extra $5,500 per year (over and above the legal limit of $16,500) into their retirement plan in 2011.

2. Clients with spouses, families and assets to protect should investigate long-term care insurance. Long-term care protects their family from the emotional, physical and financial pain that a health issue can have on them. They should take advantage of 10-pay plans, which allow them to pay off the entire cost of the policy in 10 years, while they still have earned income from a job.

3. It's a good idea for them to start paying down any non-deductible debt such as credit cards and auto loans. Ideally, they should try to be debt free, perhaps with their mortgage being the only exception, by the time they retire. If they can pay off their mortgage too, more power to them. This can free up a lot of cash flow and keep their expenses low in retirement.

4. Review their investments and asset allocations. Make sure they’re not too heavily invested in equities (no more than 50 to 60 percent) or their own company stock (no more than 10 percent).

5. Clients should consider accumulating up to three years' worth of income in savings, CDs, money markets or Treasury bills. This is where they should start taking money from when they retire. Use this “safe-money” benchmark strategy so the money they need is in the safest yet lowest-yielding investments where their principal is protected. It helps them to weather the ups and downs of the stock and bond markets when the rest of their long-term money is allocated and diversified properly.

6. Finally, have your clients review their estate plans with an estate planning attorney and consider reducing and eliminating unnecessary insurance coverage to free up cash flow for income in retirement.

Bill Losey has over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry and is a Certified Financial Planner, Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Retirement Coach. He is the author of "Retire in a Weekend! The Baby Boomer's Guide to Making Work Optional" (a finalist at the Indie Excellence Book Awards), founder of National Retirement Planning Month, and publisher of "Retirement Intelligence," an award-winning weekly newsletter that reaches thousands of subscribers worldwide. For more information, visit www.myretirementsuccess.com. "Retire in a Weekend!" can be purchased from www.retireinaweekend.com and www.amazon.com.

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