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Retirement used to be viewed as an end-of-life event that simply happened when you were done working. But retirement has taken on new meaning as lifespans continue to increase. If you plan to retire in your mid-60s you’ll need to plan ahead to ensure you have adequate income for the rest of your life and don’t have to work longer than necessary. Here are several steps to prepare you for retirement.

  1. Start saving now

Whether you’re only starting your career or you’re years away from retirement, the best time to start saving is now. The sooner you begin putting away money for retirement the better off your retirement savings will be. That’s because compounding interest accumulates over time to build wealth. If your employer provides a 401(k) you should consider using it to save for retirement. Some employers will even contribute to your retirement savings with matching your contribution to a certain percentage. So make sure you take a look to see what your company offers.

  1. Create a realistic goal

Lots of people want to live large in retirement. However, if you aren’t making enough money during your working years the odds of being a millionaire in retirement are pretty slim. Experts say you should plan to replace at least 70% of your working income in retirement. For many people that means you’ll be living off 30% less in retirement before Social Security payments begin.

  1. Evaluate your health care needs

As you age you may find yourself needing more medical services. You’ll need to evaluate your health care needs and costs to determine what you’ll spend on your health in retirement. There are savings vehicles, like a Health Savings Account (HSA), that you can use throughout your working years to put aside money to use for health care expenses in retirement. There are also other healthcare options, particularly through your employer, that you should study.

  1. Eliminate debt

If you have credit card debt, student loans, or a mortgage it’s best to pay these debts off before retirement. This way the money you have in terms of annuities, pension, Social Security, or other retirement income is money you can use for daily expenses and extras. Chances are you may want to spoil your grandchildren or take a few trips during your retirement. Plan to make your financial burden as light as possible and avoid carrying debt into retirement.

  1. Make a budget that includes unexpected expenses

To make your money last throughout retirement you’ll need to plan your spending carefully. It’s best to plan for unexpected expenses, too. You can do this by budgeting a little extra money per month toward miscellaneous costs. If you don’t need to spend it, keep saving so you have extra money should a financial emergency arise.