6. I Will Devise an Investment Plan for My Retirement Needs and Childrens’ Education

The reality is that your chances of building wealth are optimized when you invest. It doesn’t matter if there is economic or stock market mayhem, you should never retreat from saving and investing for your future and that of your loved ones. You need to devise a plan with the goal in mind of being able to provide for your family without worry as well as to retire hassle-free, say financial experts.

The key to investing is to focus long-term, says Danny Freeman, a financial advisor with Darda Wealth Management in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Money for your retirement and your child’s education ought to be invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, giving you highest rate of return over time.

“Even in the midst of chaos, there are still opportunities,” says Freeman. “Even if the stock market is down 55%, you can’t ignore the basic mantra of investing which is to buy low and sell high.”

If you are struggling to pay your mortgage and car payment because you suffered a reduction in salary or you were laid off, Freeman concedes that those dollars shouldn’t be diverted to investments. So, you shouldn’t sacrifice the roof over your head for your stock portfolio. “Investing may be suspended while you get financial house in order”

Assuming you aren’t in financial dire straights, continue to boost your future retirement income through your company’s 401k plan. Ideally, you should contribute 10%-15% of your annual salary to get the most tax benefit. If your company is still providing you with a matching contribution, which essentially is free money, then that is the least amount you should be contributing, says Freeman. So, if your company match is 6%, then a minimum of 6% of your salary should go into your 401k.

Once you have the determined the maximum amount you should put into your 401k, or other employer sponsored retirement account, look to IRA for additional savings. Freeman suggests that anyone who is under the age of 45 (or if you plan to work beyond age 65) should establish a Roth IRA. Some employers now offer the Roth 401k, where contributions are made with after-tax dollars like a Roth IRA and the limit is the same as a 401k ($16,500 for 2009).  “The Roth IRA or Roth 401k can be very beneficial for younger workers because you don’t get a tax break now but when you retire your contributions and earnings can be taken out tax-free.”

The annually limit for both a Roth IRA and regular IRA is $5,000. Depending on your annual income and participation in your retirement plan at work, you might be able to deduct your contribution to a traditional IRA. The advantage is that you have more say and control over the investment choices in your IRA than your 401k plan at work. Also, your IRA can hold stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and even real estate.

Diversification is still the best way to manage your portfolio, say financial advisors. It protects you from the ups and downs of individual companies or industries by providing a balance across and within a wide range of asset classes, which includes cash, stocks, bonds, and real estate. The broader your investments, the less vulnerable your portfolio is to fluctuations in the market.

However, some of the old formulas don’t necessarily apply in this economy, Freeman says. For instance, the Rule of 100: This is to subtract your age from 100 to figure out how much to invest in stocks. For example, someone age 35 would put 65% of his or assets in stocks.

“But a lot of fixed-income investments these days are selling at discount, such as corporate bonds, that you can get equity like returns in some cases but without the same level of risk as stocks,” he explains. “So, market conditions at the time may dictate how you allocate your assets.”

Also, be careful with age-specific investments when saving for your child’s college education, cautions Freeman. He says Section 529 College Savings Plans are still a viable investment in education even in a volatile market. Though they vary from state-to-state, most 529 plans offer favorable state and federal income tax breaks. However, for now stay away aged-based options that shift the allocation of assets from aggressive to conservative as your child nears college, advises Freeman.

Also, be mindful of state pre-paid tuition plans that may be keeping up with the rising cost of college. For information and tools to help you choose the right plan, check out CollegeSavings.org, SavingforCollege.com, CollegeBoard.com, and FindAid.org.

Freeman says that parents need to be more proactive these days and monitor the earnings of 529 plans. While you shouldn’t make spur of the moment decisions, you should make changes gradually to make sure you have the proper mix of investments in any plan.

Further Reading: Wealth For Life Principles

1. I Will Live Within My Means
2. I Will Maximize My Income Potential Through Education and Training
3. I Will Effectively Manage My Budget, Credit, Debt, and Tax Obligations
4. I Will Save At Least 10% of My Income
5. I Will Use Homeownership as a Foundation For Building Wealth
6. I Will Devise An Investment Plan For My Retirement Needs And Childrens’ Education
7. I Will Ensure That My Entire Family Adheres To Sensible Money Management Principles
8. I Will Support the Creation and Growth of Minority-Owned Businesses
9. I Will Guarantee My Wealth Is Passed On To Future Generations Through Proper Insurance And Estate Planning

10. I Will Strengthen My Community Through Philanthropy