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You may hear plenty of advice on how to plan for retirement, but do you heed it? It can be easy to push off something that seems far away when there are more immediate financial needs today (like grocery bills, mortgage payments, etc.). It’s a good idea to consider the following to make sure you are on the path to a happy retirement.

1. Get Started

When you get started on the road to retirement, it is important to know what goal you are working toward. This includes deciding if you are looking to retire early or considering working into retirement. While retirement can be expensive, everyone has different plans and needs to be honest about what you want your lifestyle to be. Remember to consider life expectancy when retirement planning, which can be estimated with your family history and the average life span. Once you have an idea of what the concept of retirement looks like to you, you can begin to determine how much you need to save to get that personalized dream retirement. With a plan in place and a goal in sight, you are on your way.

2. Pick a Path

Next is choosing how you will get to your destination. As with most road trips, there are many ways to get to your destination. You can save for retirement with employer-sponsored accounts like a 401(k), individual retirement accounts such as traditional and Roth IRAs. There are also pensions or Social Security benefits to consider. There are benefits to each alternative and it’s a good idea to research which will be best for you. How you choose to save for retirement can affect how much you will be able to save.

3. Stay the Course

Maybe the most important message with retirement: Just keep saving, as early and as often as possible. Even if you start small, it’s important to get the motor running. Then you can regularly adjust the amount you are contributing to your retirement accounts. Almost as important, you shouldn’t touch your retirement savings early without knowing the consequences. Doing so could mean losing out on the benefit of compounding interest and tax benefits — as well as suffering early withdrawal penalties.

4. Check in Near the Finish Line

As you near retirement, it’s a good idea to determine if the dream you had early on is the same as the one you have now. Perhaps you will find you want to maintain a part-time job or consulting. Maybe you thought you would want to relax on a golf course but instead get the itch to travel. Regardless, when you are ready to make use of your retirement funds, it’s important to evaluate how best to utilize them. The decisions you make can affect how much you will pay in taxes and how long your nest egg will last. In general, it’s a good idea to let your tax-advantaged accounts compound as long as possible to maximize your efforts.

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