Retirement planning: How do you measure up?

Are you saving enough for retirement? Start answering that question by comparing yourself with other Americans. Here's where the country stands on saving, along with a workout plan to help you succeed.

Transition years: Preserve your income flexibility

retirement planning social security
As the years of retirement go on, Americans are increasingly likely to run out of income sources beyond Social Security.

As you cross into the retirement zone, develop a plan that lets you adjust to surprises, such as poor markets or unforeseen medical costs.

Adjust to new conditions. Unless you've saved a lot, a 3% initial withdrawal rate could be tough to live on. Why do it?

Retirement researchers project that today's low yields mean much worse bond returns than investors experienced in past decades. That's not a given, but it's a real risk. Even if you can't get as low as 3%, the less you spend, the more flexibility you'll have to cope with tough market conditions when they hit.

Rethink your timing. The longer you can delay retirement, the easier the numbers get. Waiting means higher Social Security payments, so you'll have to withdraw less from your nest egg and make your money last for a shorter time.

Over a 25-year retirement, a 4% withdrawal rate, adjusted for inflation, would work about 67% of the time, vs. 50% of the time over 30 years. (That's assuming those lousy bond returns.)

Have a pension? Lucky you. If your plan plus Social Security can cover your important expenses, then you can be "more aggressive with your investment portfolio," says Robert Henderson, president of Lansdowne Wealth Management.

  @Money - Last updated November 04 2013 05:07 PM ET
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