Is your retirement finish line still a long way off? In that case, take a tip from the tortoise and start preparing slowly and steadily so you can win the race.

Most people’s vision of retirement is fuzzy. They see themselves either at a beach somewhere, at a cabin by a lake or globetrotting. If you’re like most people and think you have plenty of time to prepare, failing to act now could put a damper on your plans.

It’s hard to save money when you’re not exactly sure how much you’ll need and when the amount you could potentially save seems futile. The only solution: take the bull the horns!

Here are a few tips to help make your retirement dreams come true.

1. Have a clear vision

Before estimating the amount of money you’ll need at retirement, you have to ask yourself what you plan to do with your time.

Retirement will definitely have an impact on your lifestyle habits. Will you stay in the family home or move out? How will you keep yourself busy?

Sometimes, future retirees fail to ask themselves important questions like:

  • What will I actually be doing with my leisure time?
  • Will I have enough energy to perform certain chores?
  • What will be my daily source of motivation?
  • Will living in the country be feasible? Will living in a condo downtown still be worthwhile when I no longer have to deal with rush hour?

Be realistic and honest with yourself about your expectations. In terms of retirement, what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander.

2. Consider all eventualities

Your retirement could be longer than you expect, especially since average life expectancy continues to climb.

Most retirees experience 3 stages:

1. Retired Life Begins

You’ll continue to live in the family home and do various activities that cost money.

2. Settling In

Your health will determine the activities and outings you are able to do and you may have to consider moving out of the family home.

3. Winding Down

Your activities will become increasingly limited and you’ll need help with your daily activities.

The expenses associated with these stages will vary, sometimes quite significantly.

Find out how much it will cost to move into an assisted-living facility; how much care you actually need will have an impact on cost.

Always keep in mind that unplanned expenses, such as for a critical illness or loss of autonomy, are a possibility.

If you plan to provide financial assistance to your children and grandchildren, be sure to plan ahead.

3. Prepare your retirement budget

Once you have a clear vision of what you plan to do at retirement, it becomes easier to make a budget.

According to most people, your retirement income should be 70% of your active salary.

Obviously, this objective will vary depending on your expectations and projects.

This step requires research and answers to important questions, just like for any budget.

4.  Check with your advisor

Based on your current savings and what you are able to regularly put away, as well as the public and private plans you will be entitled to, you can get a fairly accurate idea of the income you will be receiving at retirement.

Are you making the most of your investments? Will you reach your objectives?

There are many calculators out there to help you, like the one from the Government of Canada. Your advisor can also help you.

If there’s a big gap between your savings and your retirement projects, consider making changes now. You can try to save more, reassess your expectations or reconsider your age of retirement.

Retirement can seem very far away, but it could easily represent 20 years of your life. You’ll thank yourself for making these financial plans when the time comes to live off of them!