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First Steps in Retirement Planning - for all Americans

Even if you're young, newly employed or haven't yet started to save for retirement, many financial professionals agree planning is key to achieving a sense of security for your future. But a new survey shows that if you're a first- or second-generation American, a woman, African American or Hispanic employee, you may feel disconnected from the financial services industry and its benefits. One reason is that you may be less likely to have opportunities to save for retirement through your workplace - or you may feel the financial services industry is not geared toward serving the needs of you or your community.

The good news? The financial services industry and many employers are working to offer greater accessibility for all employees trying to save for retirement - even with a moderate income - and are trying to make it easier for all their employees to be proactive about financial planning, no matter when or where they begin.

The new survey conducted by Harris Poll for Empower Retirement shows that women and people of color feel underrepresented when it comes to retirement saving. In fact, 70% of all respondents said they agreed with the statement: "Retirement planning is a luxury that is not afforded to all types of Americans." But the truth is that retirement planning is possible, no matter where or when you start. And it can make a huge difference for your financial situation down the road.

Another issue is that over half (52%) felt they would not be taken seriously as a client by a financial services company. People who feel that financial professionals will not take them seriously instead turn to family (44%) or friends (25%) for advice. While the people you know may have your best interests at heart, they may lack the financial know-how to advise you on how to save effectively for a secure retirement. Consulting a licensed financial professional can be one way to be sure that the advice you receive is based on knowledge and expertise about the best ways to save for retirement. Fortunately, access to financial professionals with specialized certifications is much more accessible than you may think.

Here are tips and resources to help you get started on your retirement planning journey.

* Start Now. No matter where you are in your career, starting with small savings now can make a huge difference down the road - and those savings can accumulate and grow over time.

*Contact your HR department. Especially if you're unsure what your employer offers for retirement planning, asking questions is a great place to start. Don't be afraid to ask for explanations of unclear terms or services.

* Match those Funds. Some employers will match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage point, so you'll get the full benefit of those funds by making sure you contribute at least that amount.

* Consult a Financial Planner. Ask if your employee benefits include the services of a financial planner. Many employers offer consultations with a financial professional free of charge, to help with your planning efforts.

* Personalize your Savings Options. Ask about opting into a managed account for your 401(k). This will provide you with a personalized strategy for your funds based on factors including your age, amount saved, timeline and savings goals - even if you're starting with a small amount.

* Use Digital Tools. Online tools can be a great way to track your savings. Retirement planning calculators and other features can help you set and reach your unique long-term goals.

* Explore Government Resources. To understand how and when you can most benefit from applying for Social Security, visit the retirement planning sections on the Social Security website,

* Boost your Knowledge. Blogs like Empower Insights offer free information and tips to help you understand employee benefits and retirement planning strategies.

"Anyone can benefit from professional financial advice," said Edmund F. Murphy, president and CEO, Empower Retirement. "And even if you're just beginning to save for retirement, you may reap the benefits years later. Taking full advantage of all your workplace benefits is a great place to start."

Retirement planning and saving can now benefit everyone, and can help improve your future financial outlook, no matter where you're starting from today.

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