NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – With the stock market fluctuating as often as it is, many are wondering what’s happening to their retirement funds, and if it’s even possible to retire. These days, how much do you even need in order to retire?

Todd Brown, 40, is still a couple decades away from retirement, but it’s something he started thinking about almost 20 years ago. “For me, it got me thinking about what are the other options out there and things I should be doing with my money,” Brown said.

He started investing in his 401(k) right out of college, but years later he wasn’t sure if that would be enough to help him retire. “There was all those questions,” he said.

Kyle Gardner is a chartered retirement planning counselor for Nexus Advisors in Dallas.

He said despite the recent recession and downward economy, it is still possible to retire if you plan ahead.

“When you’re 30 years old you have something that puts you at a much better advantage than someone that’s 40 or 50, and that’s time,” Gardner said.

According to Gardner, the first step one should take is to start participating in the company 401(k) match program, if you’re not already. Once that’s going, diversify and have a variety of investments, both in and out of the stock market, so all your retirement eggs aren’t in the same taxable basket.

“Diversify even outside of your 401k so you can take advantage of opportunities that your 401k does not provide…especially from a tax standpoint,” said Gardner.

Gardner believes mutual funds can be a great place to start investing due to the simple access to investment managers and the broad diversification one can achieve. However, it is important to consider other types of investment and savings vehicles that are not correlated with the stock market that allow you to reduce your investment risk. You should discuss this with a financial advisor to determine what options make the most sense for your situation.

Gardner also recommends contributing to a Roth IRA if you are eligible. However, your income could prevent you from making a Roth contribution. Today, more companies are offering a Roth 401k option that allows everyone to contribute regardless of income.

But, after you do all you can, given today’s market climate, will you still be able to fully retire, and how much money will you need to achieve that? For each person, it’s different based on your individual needs, but Gardner says for an average 40-year-old just starting to plan, you would need to sock away nearly $1,900 a month in your retirement portfolio.

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“It’s not uncommon for people to spend 30 years in retirement today,” he said. “It’s a very long time to fund a retirement.”

But, if you’re closer to 30-years-old, and you begin planning now, that monthly number drops by half, and you may only need to raise $975 a month to get to your retirement goal.

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“As long as you have a plan, and you’re educated and are aware of that, and you have time to deal with it, then I think they can be confident they can reach their goals,” said Gardner.

For Todd Brown – who started planning in his early 20s – he now feels confident that despite today’s market volatility, he’ll still be able to reach his goal of retirement by the age of 55.

“I have a luxury right now of having a pretty good savings in order to achieve those goals,” Brown said.

Gardner is also beginning to help his clients plan retirement scenarios without Social Security. He says the younger generation may have to fully fund their retirement without that, and should plan accordingly.