Preparing for retirement can be a daunting task, but there are plenty of simple steps you can take that will lead to greater happiness and financial stability in your golden years.

Your nest egg may not be huge (I know mine isn’t), but by taking a little time to consider what your ideal retirement looks like you can craft a plan to achieve your ultimate vision.

The bottom line is any preparation is better than no preparation. Creating a financial road map now that lays out your financial plan for the future means more peace of mind moving forward.

Here are a few ways to tackle preparing for retirement that may seem like simple tasks, but that can lead to greater financial security when you finally exit the workforce.

3 Ways You Can Start Preparing for Retirement

Pay Off Debt

This seems like a such a “duh!” thing to do, but so many people enter retirement with a cloud of debt hanging over their heads. A Fannie Mae Economic & Strategic Research Group study found that almost half of baby boomers ages 65 to 69 are carrying mortgage debt into retirement in 2015.

What may be worse is the amount of credit card debt retirees have. A 2018 study found 45% of retirees had nonmortgage debt, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. The median value of that debt was $4,000. With an annual interest rate of 20%, for example, someone with that much debt is paying around $800 per year to maintain that debt level.

Creating a plan to tackle some of the debt while preparing for retirement can be a boon when you leave the workforce and most likely must reduce your monthly income. Targeting high-interest rate debt, and eliminating as much as possible is such a powerful way to prepare for retirement.

Actually eliminating the debt may be a trickier prospect, but if you take some time to analyze your spending and create a plan, you will be surprised by what you can achieve.

Beef Up Your Saving and Investing

Thinking about saving for retirement can be a stressful endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. To make it a little less tiresome, think about this simple phrase: “every little bit helps.”

Over time, the stock market is likely your best bet for increasing your retirement wealth because the long-term average annual return is around 10%. And by using compounding interest, any amount you sock away on a yearly basis can grow exponentially.

Check out this chart from USA Today, which shows annual growth at a more modest 8%:

Of course, if you have more time to prepare for retirement, those savings can really ramp up. But even if you’re approaching retirement in the next few years you can see how investing and saving now pays off down the line.

Just like eliminating debt, taking some time to really analyze your financial situation and creating a plan instead of just putting it off until later can be a huge benefit to your future. And if that seems like a daunting task to take on alone, consider talking to a certified financial planner or other financial professional who can help you craft a long-term plan.

You can also check this website each Saturday for a bevy of retirement stories to help you on your way.

Educate Yourself on Retirement

Education is a powerful tool in preparing for retirement. Learning about all the different programs offered and how you can get the most from them means you’re setting yourself up for a less stressful future.

Here are some topics that can be a boon while preparing for retirement:

  • Social Security: Even knowing the basics can help you figure out the best time to file for Social Security benefits, and that matters because when you file can drastically alter your monthly benefits checks.
  • Tax-advantaged retirement accounts: Using accounts like 401(k)s, HSAs and IRAs can help you save big on taxes now and in the future.
  • Life expectancy: No one really knows how long they are going to live, but having a rough idea based on your current health and family history can help in preparing for retirement. The Social Security Administration found that 1/3 of 65-year-olds will live past 90. So that’s 25-plus years of retirement for 33% of the retired population.

A lot of this may seem like fairly obvious advice, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Preparing for retirement by thinking about it now can save you so much stress once you enter your golden years.