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Financial Tip

From Aptitude Test to Air Force Colonel
At Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., Debra Rose wasn't happy with the classes she was taking, and wasn't sure what career to pursue. When her grandmother suggested an aptitude test, she went to the counselor's office and took the Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment tool designed for college students. She answered questions about her interests which were compared to others who were happy and successful in their jobs.

"My general skills showed I had an aptitude for a career in forestry, police work or the military," she says. After further research she went to the Air Force recruitment center in St. Louis, enlisted and earned her commission. Today, 31 years later, she is a colonel serving in cyberspace operations at Fort Meade in Maryland. She and her husband Jerry have two grown children and a 6-year-old grandson.

Would she have considered the military without that aptitude test? "Probably not," she says. "I'm glad I did!"

Don't Let Retirement Myths Negatively Impact Your Golden Years

Whether you are nearing the point in your career when retirement is just around the corner or you think that time of your life is a world away, knowing the steps to take to help ensure your retirement years will be financially secure can be challenging. During the past few years, a weakened economy made saving for retirement a challenge. None the less, it is important not to let time get away from you when it comes to preparing for this phase of your life.

Fortunately, there is a great deal of retirement planning information available from many different sources. Just make sure you get reliable advice and know the facts before you put your retirement plan in place. Presented here are five common myths that can negatively impact your financial situation when you reach retirement age:

Social Security benefits are all I need for retirement.
Based on the retirement lifestyle you plan to maintain, relying only on your Social Security benefits may limit your ability to live comfortably. What's more, there is much speculation that Social Security funds will run out sometime after 2033. So depending only on Social Security checks may cause you to be financially vulnerable at life's end.

I'm all set with my employer-provided retirement plan.
If you participated in an employer sponsored 401(k) for many years, you may have a healthy retirement account in place. But make sure you keep track of all the fees associated with the plan. If these costs become a drain on your savings potential, inquire about other options that might be available. If your employer does not offer a retirement plan, check out other investment instruments - such as a traditional or Roth IRA - that give you the ability to save on your own.

I don't earn enough to save for retirement.
If your employer offers a matching 401(k) program, you can start small and increase your contribution on a regular basis until you can contribute the maximum amount. The employer match can help boost your overall savings more than you think. If your employer doesn't offer this benefit, take a look at all of the "extra" spending you do each month on things such as lattes, restaurant meals and entertainment. Consider limiting some of these purchases in order to put money away each pay period to fund a personal IRA or other type of investment.

I can wait until after I pay for my children's education to start saving for retirement.
While providing an education for children is a common financial goal, keep in mind that if you don't have enough tucked away to support yourself in later years, your children may end up paying the price by having to finance your care. You can help your children prepare for their education expenses by encouraging them to research potential scholarships, grants and student loans.

I will spend less when I am retired.
If you have paid off all of your debt, you may think that your expenses will be less in retirement. But remember, you may not continue to receive the same tax breaks as you did when you were employed or paying a mortgage. Also, with additional free time, you may be tempted to spend more on traveling, hobbies or other activities that you don't have time for now. Keep in mind how inflation and increasing healthcare costs can have an impact your retirement budget.

Teachable Moments

Planning for your retirement is just as important as any other financial decisions you make for your family.

Think about how much better off your children will be if they understand what it takes to build wealth for the future even before they leave home. By seeing you actively involved in setting and meeting your financial goals, your children can learn the connection between work and money, and have a better understanding of the concepts of budgeting and saving over time.