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5 Best Online Retirement Guides


Readers often ask us to direct them to resources about retirement planning. One of the most comprehensive and valuable sites online is also among the least known: the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

This agency – part of the Department of Labor – is responsible (in its own words) for “educating and assisting” the 150 million Americans covered by more than 718,000 private retirement plans and 2.6 million health plans. (All of which, when combined with other welfare benefit plans, hold more than $6.5 trillion in assets.)

As part of that mission, EBSA publishes numerous guides and reports about retirement plans, retirement savings and health plans. Here’s a quick look at some of the best:

Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning

A terrific guide for people about 10 to 15 years from retiring. Helps you estimate – courtesy of interactive worksheets online – how much money you might need when you leave the office. Also projects costs and savings “well into your retirement years.”  (You can download the guide, or order a copy from EBSA.)

“What You Should Know About Your Retirement Plan”

Most people know one thing (and only one thing) about their savings plan at work: their account balance. This booklet explains how retirement plans work and “what information you should review periodically and where to go for help with questions.” Of particular value: “Action Items” in each chapter. (Steps you can take to research and monitor your retirement plan and benefits.)

“A Look at 401(k) Plan Fees

This is a subject that’s been getting more attention (and rightly so): The fees and expenses paid by your employer’s retirement plan can significantly reduce the growth of your nest egg. This report answers some of the most common questions about such fees and provides a good checklist to review the expenses in your 401(k).

“Retirement and Health Care Coverage: Questions and Answers for Dislocated Workers”

Losing a job can also mean losing retirement and health benefits. This publication, in addition to addressing common questions about access to retirement funds and the safety of retirement plans (“What if my company goes out of business and the retirement plan terminates?”), will point you to several additional resources.

“Women and Retirement Savings”

Women typically begin retirement with a smaller nest egg than men – and, given a woman’s longer life expectancy, need those savings for an extended period of time. This booklet poses eight questions to help women “take charge of [their] financial future.”


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.