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How can I plan for retirement if my employer doesn't offer retirement benefits?

In many cases, your first step should be to open an IRA and contribute as much as allowable each year. Because of the potential for tax-deferred, compounded earnings, IRAs offer similar long-term growth opportunities as employer-sponsored plans. In addition, you may qualify for tax-deductible contributions or tax-free withdrawals, depending on whether you invest in a regular IRA or a Roth IRA.

Another tax-advantaged option to consider is annuities. Generally purchased from a life insurance company, a typical annuity features the potential for tax-deferred growth and provides either fixed or variable payments beginning at some future time (usually retirement). Depending on the type of annuity, you may have several options in how you ultimately take distributions.

Finally, don't forget about traditional investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds). Most of these vehicles are taxable, but they can still help you over the long term. The specific types of investments you select will depend on your risk tolerance, time horizons, liquidity needs, and goals for retirement. A financial professional can help you construct a portfolio that makes sense for you.