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How to fit retirement savings into your work life balance

When Joanna Harris started her own South Florida business, CrunchCare, earlier this year, she kept a part time job for one reason: it gave her access to a retirement savings plan.
Unfortunately, most busy women don't even have retirement savings on their radar. We're juggling kids, jobs, elderly parents, spouses and housework. But a peek at the numbers are scary. Too many women are living their senior years in poverty. Less than half of women have any retirement savings. Most mothers today are living paycheck to paycheck or counting on our spouses to save for our golden years. But we need to change that because women earn less over our careers and we live longer. That means we will need more money to retire comfortably.
``Women think retirement savings is one of those things than can always wait,'' says Jan Knight, a financial services advisor with MML Investors Services, in Fort Lauderdale, a MassMutual subsidiary. ``All it takes is to just get started, baby steps.''
Here are a few tips to get started:
Know what you are spending. ``You can't invest if you don't have a surplus,'' Knight says. ``You need to figure out how to save a little, then you can talk about what's the right thing to do with that money.''
Make a retirement plan. Jane Hardwick, a certified retirement coach, says knowing what you want to do when you retire, where you want to live and who you will spend time with paves the way for figuring out how to get there.
Make retirement savings a priority. That may mean stashing away less for a child's college education. ``One of the best ways to help your kids is to put yourself in a position where you are financially OK in your own retirement,'' Hardwick says.
Start young. Women need to start saving sooner than men, as early as their 20s, because by the time they retire they will most likely have been in the workforce 13 fewer years than men, experts say. Financial advisors recommend stashing away 10 percent of your paycheck when you are young and as much as 30 percent when you reach your 60s.

Seek out advice. Look into free classes at community banks or ask for a consultation with a financial planner with the goal of trying to demystify the savings process.

Look into all available retirement savings plans. If you're working, save as much as you can in your company's retirement plan, or in an IRA in which you can make tax-deductible contributions. Most women have to invest more aggressively than men. The average individual balance for men (including all IRA types) was $91,000, while for women it was $51,000. Men also contribute more to Social Security because they are less likely to take time off from their careers.

Check financial statements regularly and readjust as necessary.

If you are like most women, you plan to think about retirement savings later...But later is now!