Retirement planning should start from the moment you get your first job. It is not a simple process but is actually a multi-step process that evolves over time.

 For a secure, comfortable, and fun retirement, you will need to build the financial cushion that will fund everything you need and want. If you want your retirement to be stress-free and enjoyable, you will have to tackle the serious and perhaps boring part from the get-go: planning how you’ll get there.

This post will, therefore, cover the 10 things you must absolutely do (no matter what your age) to build a solid retirement plan.

Tip #1: Saving Starts Very Early On

If you are already saving, keep going! Whether it’s for your retirement or another goal, you need to save and keep saving. If you haven’t started saving yet, it’s time to get started. It’s a very rewarding habit, and the more you save, the more you’ll want to keep saving. The important part is to devise a plan, set goals and stick to them.

Tip #2: Know your needs

You have to be realistic when planning your retirement. Retirement is expensive and if you want to maintain your standard of living when you stop working, you will have to plan ahead and take charge of your financial future. Think about your spending habits and the things that you’d like to cross off your bucket list when you plan.

Tip #3: Check your employer’s pension plan

Check to see if you are covered by the plan and find out everything you can about the plan from your employer. You must understand how it works. You can even ask for an individual benefit statement to see what your benefit is worth. Also, remember to find out what will happen to your pension benefit before you change jobs.

Tip #4: Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan

If you are in the US, your employer may offer a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, while if you are in Canada, the retirement plan they offer may be the Registered Retirement Savings Plan. The good thing about these plans is that they are tax-deductible. Sign up and contribute!

Tip #5: You Can Suggest that Your Employer Start A Retirement Plan

If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, you can always ask them to start one. It will not only benefit you, as there are some simplified plans out there that can help both you and the employer. There is a wide range of retirement saving plan options available in almost every country.

Tip #6: Consider Investment Principles

Essentially, this means that you’ll have to calculate inflation and the after-tax rate of investment returns to assess the likelihood of the portfolio producing the desired income. Hence, how you save will be just as important as how much you save.

Tip #7: Consider Putting Money in an Individual Retirement Account

Individual Retirement Account (in the US) or Tax-Free Savings Account (in Canada) can be just as helpful. When you open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you have two options – a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. You can put up to $5,000 a year into the Roth IRA and the Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).

Tip #8: Don’t Withdraw from Your Retirement Savings Until You Retire

This is pretty straightforward. Touching your retirement savings before you retire, you will not only lose principal and interest but you may also lose tax benefits. In some cases, you may even have to pay withdrawal penalties.

Tip #9: Don’t Be in a Hurry to Collect Your Social Security Benefits

In some countries, you can receive benefits as early as age 60 even though the retirement age is at 65. In other countries, you can start accessing your social security benefits at 62. While you may be tempted to start collecting them as soon as you can, it’ll be better to delay these benefits until you reach full retirement age.

Tip #10: Reduce Debt and Avoid New Debt as You Age

The more debt you have, the more interest you pay. So, not only will that mean one less monthly bill that you will have to worry about after you retire, but it also means you will be able to save more. Try the snowball method: you start by paying off the smallest of your debt and then gradually move to the largest ones.

Most Importantly: Do Not Be Afraid to Ask Questions

While the tips we outlined in this post are meant to point you in the right direction, you’ll most likely need more information. You can talk to your employer, your bank, your union, a financial adviser or an insurance company, such as Nonmed Insurance Inc. to get practical advice. Do not hesitate to ask them as many questions as necessary and make sure you understand the answers.