Frankly put, retirement is such a huge and important stage in everyone's life that preparations should never be put off too long. When done properly, preparing for retirement doesn't need to be painful or mean a dramatic cut in your overall lifestyle. What it does mean though is that you will need to follow some guidelines, and stick to them fairly stringently. If you don't, then you an easily find yourself quickly reversing any of the gains that you have already made, and possibly making things even worse than when you started.
- Set a goal. The first thing that you need to do when preparing for retirement is to set a goal. This goal should be realistic, and attainable, and one that will help you out later in life. For example, try to come up with a goal of how much money you should have set aside, and begin saving towards that.
- Do you have a 401(k)? One of the best ways that you can begin saving money for retirement is to take advantage of any 401(k)'s that are offered by your company. If your company doesn't have one, then see what you can do about getting one started. If your company does have one, and you haven't begun taking advantage of it, do so immediately. If you do have one, then are you maxing it out? By maxing out the savings ton it, you can take better advantage of any matching that your company may do, thus increasing your savings.
- Diversify. Don't stick to just a 401(k), but branch out as much as possible. This will ensure that you don't' have all your eggs in one basket, which could lead to other problems if the economy takes another dip. Some things that you may want to consider looking into are items like a Roth IRA, CDs, bonds, and other vehicles which will allow you to set aside money which will grow with time.
- Do you have life insurance? If you don't currently have life insurance, then you need to get some. Life insurance is a product that isn't directly tied to your retirement except in one way. It is a lot easier to get the insurance while you are still working than it is when you have retired. This is a product that is designed to help out your family more than it is you, so try to make things a little easier on your family if you do happen to pass away (hopefully sometime far into the future) by having a life insurance policy that will handle most of your final expenses.
- Set aside an emergency nest egg. If at all possible, try to set aside between three and six months worth of salary for an emergency. This will understandably take time to accumulate, but it will definitely come in handy in case of any emergency. Keep in mind that this money should only be used in the event of a serious emergency, and left alone at all other times.
- Keep track of what you have. Whatever methods you end up using to prepare for retirement, you need to keep track. Keeping track of what you have is a good way to ensure that you know where you stand financially, as well as knowing if you have to pay any extra taxes.
- Don't touch your savings. Whatever you do, if you want to make sure that you have enough money set aside for your retirement; do not touch your savings. The only thing that you should touch is the money that you have set aside for an emergency, and that should only be used in the case of an emergency.