5 Steps to Prepare for Retirement Success

Spend your golden years in the black by planning wisely for retirement.

Getting prepared for retirement can seem like a major chore—but it is possible to do. One way to help ensure a safe and comfortable retirement is to follow the path of those who have already prepared for their post-work years.

And fortunately, baby boomers who have successfully managed their finances, as well as retirees who have eased into their golden years, all have practical tips and guidance to share.

We can certainly learn plenty from these real-life experts. They’re people who have achieved a huge part of the American dream: getting to a point in their lives where work is optional or they have financial peace of mind as they approach retirement.

Yet nearly one in three baby boomers in America acknowledge that they aren’t yet economically ready for retirement, according to a new Investor Index Survey released by TD Ameritrade. The good news, however, is that 71% of Boomers say they are prepared for the day when they’ll bid the workplace goodbye.

According to TD Ameritrade’s survey, those who ably prepared for retirement cited these five things as the biggest contributors to their retirement success:

  1. Limiting use of credit (67%)
  2. Saving early and consistently (58%)
  3. Spending less on luxuries / discretionary items (58%)
  4. Having employment with an excellent salary (56%)
  5. Investing in/maintaining a well-balanced portfolio (51%)

So as basic as it may seems, simply handling routine financial functions well (like saving, spending and borrowing) played an enormous role in people’s retirement readiness.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

The survey further suggests that a person’s mindset plays a role in his or her financial predicament or success.

When “prepared” boomers were asked what allowed them to stay on track and successfully save for retirement, their top three unprompted responses were personal actions they had taken:

• Budgeting and regular saving (37%)

• Participation in a company retirement plan, such as a 401(k) (20%)

• Controlling their spending and incurring little or no debt (20%)

However, “unprepared” boomers cited external factors as the top three reasons they are not on track for retirement:

• Loss of or poor employment (35%)

• High costs of living and a poor economy (33%)

• Above-average healthcare expenses (12%)

In other words, the “unprepared” group failed to take personal responsibility for their circumstances. Instead, they appeared to blame their financial problems exclusively—or at least primarily—on outside forces or situations beyond their control.

Of course, no one chooses to endure a job loss or to face a huge rise in healthcare bills. But if you claim that you’re not prepared for retirement solely (or mainly) due to these factors, you’re kidding yourself.  You’re ignoring the role that you play in your financial life, and the things that were within your own power to do—things like stashing away more when you did have a job, or managing your cash-flow better during good times.

That was a common trait among “prepared” retirees: even when times were good, they maintained a fiscally conservative approach, particularly with their spending. Meanwhile the “unprepared” group was more likely to splurge during good times.

So what about you? How prepared are you for retirement and are you willing to take the steps necessary to achieve retirement security?

This article originally appeared on AskTheMoneyCoach.com.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a personal finance expert and co-founder of the free financial advice site, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter @themoneycoach.