If you were asked to visualize retirement, what would you see? You may see yourself living on a beachfront property, cruising around in your dream car or even turning your favorite hobby into a business. Regardless of what retirement looks like to you, it’s safe to say we all want to enjoy it.

Military Saves Week reminds us our day-to-day activities can play a role in achieving our long-term goals. With that said, retirement should be top of mind. After all, you’ll be relying on money you’ve saved over the course of your career to cover expenses for 20 years or more. The sooner you start planning, the better off you’ll be.

Work backwards

An easy way to start planning for retirement is to work backwards. Start by coming up with a rough estimate for what you expect to need on a monthly basis in your retirement years. Look at your current expenses and living standards, and that should give you a baseline. You may also want to increase your living standards in retirement. In that case, you’ll need to increase your earnings or save more aggressively over the span of your career.

Of course, factors such as debt and health can impact your finances. To play it safe, stay healthy and pay down as much debt as you can before your retirement rolls around. Otherwise, plan to include these expenses in your retirement budget.

Set a schedule

Your savings goals hinge on the amount of time you have to reach them. You can use the Rule of 72 to illustrate this concept. The Rule of 72 tells us how much time it will take for our investments to double. For instance, if you put $1,000 in an account with a 7 percent rate of return, you’ll have $2,000 in just over 10 years.

The rate of return will vary across retirement accounts, but this should give you an idea for how much time you’ll need to grow your investments.

Open a retirement account

Now that you have a schedule and a sense for how much you’ll need to save, it’s time to start contributing to your retirement fund. Open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), 401(k), 403(b) or government Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and start making contributions right away, even if they are small. Some employers will offer matching contributions up to a certain amount as well.

Contributions to any of these accounts grow tax-deferred. This means you won’t have to pay taxes on the funds until you begin withdrawing them. By taking advantage of employer contributions and tax advantages, you allow compound interest to work for you.

 Speak with an Advisor

Planning for retirement can be exciting, but at times may be confusing or even stressful. If you have lofty goals or you’re getting a late start, it makes sense to speak with a trusted financial advisor. It’s recommended you schedule time to meet with an advisor at least quarterly to make sure you’re on pace to meet your goals. Working with a professional will not only bring peace of mind, but can make you a savvy planner.

So if you haven’t started planning for retirement yet, start today – your future self will thank you.

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