Retirement is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
We look forward to being able to live out our lives in comfort, enjoying all those things we've struggled to find time for during our working lives. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen automatically and we need to be actively planning how to achieve our goals on an ongoing basis.
In good news, a recent study showed that Australian seniors are becoming more aware of the risks and requirements for retirement, with just over three-quarters of the almost 6000 respondents indicating they have made plans for later in their life.
Drilling down on this, we find the less inspiring statistic that only 49 per cent had specifically made financial plans.
But what can you do if you're in the same boat as almost half of Australia's seniors?
The simple answer is to start considering your future now. To aid you in this endeavour, we've come up with five steps you can take today to boost yourself into the top 50 per cent.
Write down your ideal lifestyle
We've all got that image in our minds of how we want to spend our golden years.
For some it's golfing, for others, it's living by the sea.
You might have modest goals or expensive tastes.
Whatever the case, write down how you want to live your life through retirement. Really think about how you'll spend your time. If you're working more than 40 hours a week now, what will you be doing when you stop?
Maybe you've already lined up that extra time for your favourite hobbies, but if you haven't thought about it yet, now is the time.
Work out how much is enough
You've written down your ideal lifestyle, now think about how much it will cost.
However you have chosen to live, your primary goal now is to fund it. And it's not just costs but time frames that need to be considered with life expectancy now in the 80s and rising.
Armed with this information, you can then see whether your existing investments will fit the bill. If you identify any deficiencies, at least you'll have some time to remedy this through additional savings, salary sacrifice or debt-reduction strategies.
Structure yourself for success
Now it's time to get down to the nuts and bolts.
Before you look at investing your savings, you should consider the structure that your investments will take.
Whose name will they be under? Should you use a trust? Is a self-managed superannuation fund a better option? This will require homework, but done correctly it will make your money go further, faster.
Ensure you are seeking the help of a financial adviser who thinks strategically, has the relevant taxation background and can show you all the options available to you.
Review your investment strategy
When was the last time you looked at your investment portfolio?
Do you have a good mix of defensive and growth investments?
You'll need both, with defensive investments there to smooth out your returns and growth investments letting you get ahead of inflation.
If all of the above sounds daunting, rest assured help is available. A financial professional can guide you through the complex world of superannuation and retirement strategies to help you live your ideal lifestyle. They know the ins and outs of the processes, structures and strategies that can make a considerable difference when retirement finally comes around.
So, what are you waiting for? It's never too early to start. In fact, the sooner you begin planning for your retirement, the easier the process can be.
Start thinking about retirement now and set yourself up to live the life you've been dreaming about.
Why not increase the financial savviness of those around you - pay it forward and pass on these tips to your family, friends and kids.
Olivia Maragna is the co-founder of Aspire Retire Financial Services and is a respected and independent financial expert. Olivia's advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.