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Getting ready for retirement involves careful preparation, including a proper estate plan, but much of your financial security depends on making the right decisions at crucial points.

One of the most important decisions is made long before retirement: the decision to start saving. Because of the value of compound interest, the earlier you start saving, the better. Saving half as much per year beginning in your mid-20s is better than starting to save at age 40.

Proper management of your retirement account is as important as saving. An employer contribution to your 401(k) is an important benefit, and if you have it, you should save at least as much as you need to to have your savings matched. If at all possible, avoid cashing out your 401(k) until you are ready to retire. And if you have a traditional retirement account, remember that you are required to take withdrawals beginning at age 70-and-a-half or face a stiff tax burden.

Timing your retirement properly is also essential. If you can delay retirement by a few years, or take a less-demanding part-time job, your savings will last longer. Likewise, you have a choice of when to begin collecting Social Security. You may start payments as early as age 62, but the amount will be discounted. If you delay claiming the benefits until age 70, your checks will be larger.

The more careful planning you do early on, the more you will have the opportunity to enjoy your retirement.

To learn more about our estate planning services, visit www.littmankrooks.com/elder-law/estate-planning/ or visit www.elderlawnewyork.com for more information about legal services for seniors.