In Iditarod and Retirement, Prep is Key

~ By Monica Ochoa, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist ~

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, held each March in Alaska, is one of the harshest, most challenging races known to man (or dog). Mushers embark on a race from Anchorage to Nome that takes between nine and 15 days. Contestants bear sub-zero temperatures with gale-force winds that can cause wind chills as low as negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit! It takes endurance, preparation, and careful planning to make it from start to finish.

The same can be said for your race toward retirement and Social Security. No one would hit the trail without being ready for the challenges. Similarly, no worker today should be navigating toward retirement without a little bit of preparing, planning, and stick-to-itiveness.

Monica Ochoa

Monica Ochoa
Social Security Administration

Choosing your steps is as important as selecting the right sled dogs. Your first step in planning for a comfortable retirement is to look at your Social Security Statement, which you can do online easily with a my Social Security account. The online Statement is easy to use and provides estimates you should consider in planning for your retirement. It provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool. Your Statement allows you to review and ensure your earnings are accurately posted to your Social Security record. This feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over your lifetime. If the information is incorrect, or you have earnings missing from your record, you may not receive all of the benefits to which you are entitled in the future. Visit to set up a my Social Security account and get started.

Before heading into the snowy terrain, you want to make sure you have prepared for a number of different possible obstacles on the trail. For retirement planning, you’ll want to test out the Retirement Estimator to see how changes in your income, retirement age, and other variables may change your overall plan. Use our Retirement Estimator, where you can get a personalized, instant estimate of your future retirement benefits using different retirement ages and scenarios. Visit the Retirement Estimator at

Out in the cold, you’ll be thankful for the provisions you’ve brought along. In retirement, you’ll understand why it was so important for you to save early on. The sooner you begin your financial planning, the better off you will be. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of the average worker’s pre-retirement earnings, but most financial advisors say that you will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. You also will need other savings, investments, pensions or retirement accounts to make sure you have financial security to live comfortably when you retire. Visit the Ballpark Estimator for tips to help you save. You’ll find it at

Use our online library of publications as your trail map or guidebook to help you when it comes to planning for retirement. Check out When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits. It and many other useful publications can be found at

As you mush, mush, mush toward retirement, remember that it’s not about the destination, but all about the journey. Spending a little time to prepare along the way will make all the difference when you cross the finish line into retirement.

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