By Jeff Rose
Most of us say that we want a successful retirement. Unfortunately, too many of us don't think things through, and could end up unprepared for retirement. It's remarkably easy to wreck your retirement years. Here are three steps that are likely to ruin your retirement:
1. Forgo a plan. Planning often seems overrated. After all, a plan can be restricting. Unfortunately, without a plan, there is nothing to help you on your path to retirement. Without a plan, it's too easy to forget about the end game and just focus on what's happening today. If you want a successful retirement you need to look ahead.
A retirement plan forces you to look beyond what you think you want right now. Instead, you need to look at where you want to be, relative to where you are right now. Your retirement plan lays out the steps you need to take to get from here to there and possibly even retire early. Without proper planning, you are likely to find yourself without enough to retire, and in danger of living longer than your money.
Create a realistic retirement plan that allows you to save up for the retirement you want, and that encourages you to start taking the steps that lead to a successful retirement later. If you don't have a road map to a better retirement, you may not ever get there.
2. Rack up debt. One of the biggest retirement killers is debt. When you have debt obligations, your money isn't your own. Instead of using your money to build wealth, you are paying interest straight into someone else's pocket. During retirement, you want fewer drains on your money. Your retirement income is more fixed. If a large portion of that income is going toward paying interest debt, you could end up without enough to pay your retirement costs.
Instead of getting into debt now, live within your means. Make a plan to pay off debt before you retire, including mortgage debt if possible. The fewer obligations you have in retirement, the better off you'll be. Plus, living within your means now is good practice for creating habits that will enable you to avoid outliving your money during retirement.
Learn to live without debt, and your retirement will be more successful in the long run. And you'll be happier knowing that more of your money is being used to help you maintain the retirement lifestyle that you actually want.
Take care of yourself now. While there is no complete guarantee that you won't get sick, or end up with a chronic illness, you can still improve your chances of living with excellent health in retirement. Exercise, eat healthier including brain boosting superfoods, and get the right amount of sleep. Remember to include time for relaxation in your routine.
If you stay active, body and mind, you can improve the odds that you will need fewer medical services. Good health can help you reduce your overall costs in retirement, as well as enjoy yourself better. It's hard to enjoy the money you have saved for retirement if your body is in such bad shape that you can't do anything.
Consider your current situation, and think about what you want for the future. Create a plan to pay off debt and save your money. And, while you're at it, don't forget to take care of yourself. Keep your body healthy and your mind sharp, so you'll be better able to enjoy retirement for many years.
Jeff Rose is a certified financial planner and U.S. combat veteran. He blogs at Good Financial Cents and Soldier of Finance.