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Retirement isn't just a pipe dream. Here's how to make it happen

Sharon Epperson

Forget golfing in Florida or traveling abroad, more and more workers are feeling left out of the American retirement dream.

Of the 74 million baby boomers out there, about 10,000 hit retirement age every day, yet nearly 3 in 4 plan to work beyond traditional retirement age on at least a part-time basis, according to a Gallup poll.

Whether they haven't sufficiently saved or their portfolio took a hit, two-thirds said having enough money is a top concern, according to Capital Group's Wisdom of Experience survey.

By contrast, of those who have recently retired, only 27 percent say finances are a top concern, the same report said.

In fact, 76 percent of retired boomers said their financial situation was in line with or better than what they had expected, according to Capital Group.

So what do retirees know that the rest of us don't? Likely it's these four secrets to a secure retirement:


1. Invest for the long term

Markets fluctuate, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to change course.

The best thing retirement savers can do is stick with a long-term strategy designed to weather all market conditions — up and down.

To that end, be consistent and commit to a plan based on your personal goals ( and geography ).

2. Maintain a diversified portfolio

Achieving your long-term goals requires balancing risk and rewards along with choosing the right mix of investments.

A variety of investments can help secure guaranteed income and growth while lowering the risk of losses during market downturns. That means owning funds instead of individual stocks, and owning multiple asset classes instead of just one.

This is where working with an advisor can help.

3. Keep a close eye on fees

At the same time, understand the fees you are paying for your investments and for your financial advisor.

Even the difference between 1 percent and 2 percent can have a dramatic impact on your retirement. Therefore, consider low cost, simple investments that you buy and hold.

Warren Buffett 's pick? In an interview with CNBC's "On The Money ," the Oracle of Omaha recommended an S&P 500 low-cost index fund.

Buffett said investors can keep more of their retirement savings by cutting investment costs and reducing management fees or commissions charged by financial advisors.

To see if you are paying too much for the advisory services you receive, click here .

4. Start saving early

Stashing a portion of your monthly income toward retirement when you are young — and contributing throughout your career — is a major component of financial security. Yet, fewer than 1 in 5 boomers said they started saving when they were in their 20s, according to the Capital Group survey.

Fidelity suggests that workers every year put away 15 percent of their salary , which includes any employer match they receive. That number isn't attainable for everyone, however. (The median savings rate in a retirement plan is now just shy of 9 percent, the highest percentage in almost 10 years, according to Fidelity.)

To work your way up, Jeanne Thompson, a senior vice president of Fidelity Investments, suggests incremental changes. "Increase your savings 1 percent every year to a target of 15 percent."

The key is to make sure you have enough time for your savings and market returns to grow.

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