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You may have a very idealistic vision of retirement — doing all of the things that you never seem to have time to do now. But how do you pursue that vision? Social Security may be around when you retire, but the benefit that you get from Uncle Sam may not provide enough income for your retirement years. To make matters worse, few employers today offer a traditional company pension plan that guarantees you a specific income at retirement. On top of that, people are living longer and must find ways to fund those additional years of retirement. Such eye-opening facts mean that today, sound retirement planning is critical.

You want to retire comfortably when the time comes. You also want to help your child go to college. So how do you juggle the two? The truth is, saving for your retirement and your child's education at the same time can be a challenge. But take heart — you may be able to reach both goals if you make some smart choices now.

Why do so many people never obtain the financial independence that they desire? Often it's because they just don't take that first step — getting started. Besides procrastination, other excuses people make are that investing is too risky, too complicated, too time consuming, and only for the rich.

Approximately 66 million people today receive some form of Social Security benefits, including retirement, disability, survivor, and family benefits. (Source: Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2017)  Although most people receiving Social Security are retired, you and your family members may be eligible for benefits at any age, depending on your circumstances.

You know how important it is to plan for your retirement, but where do you begin? One of your first steps should be to estimate how much income you'll need to fund your retirement. That's not as easy as it sounds, because retirement planning is not an exact science. Your specific needs depend on your goals and many other factors.