retirement planning, retirement savingsA comprehensive strategy based on professional advice is an important part of planning for retirement. Don’t rely solely on your company’s retirement plan and the fading promise of Social Security. You have to take charge and carefully craft a plan that fits your retirement needs and financial goals. It is never too early or too late to start building your retirement savings —the point is to just get started.

As you create a plan, remember that you need your retirement savings to take care of you for at least 30 years after you retire. The key to successful retirement plan growth is diversity. With that in mind, here are five strategies that will help you achieve the ideal retirement plan:

1. Get started now, and don’t be afraid to be aggressive. Stop telling yourself that you will eventually start saving for retirement. Start saving now. According to CNN Money, you will need 70 percent of your annual salary to live comfortably during your retirement years. A more accurate number is probably 100 percent if you plan to enjoy your retirement instead of just staying home. If your retirement is 20 or 30 years away, you can be more aggressive at first and adjust your exposure over time.

2. Contribute to a 401(k). If your company offers a 401(k), get started with it as soon as you are eligible. You should make sure your contributions are sufficient enough that you get the full benefit of any matching programs offered by your employer. Contribute as much as you can through automatic deductions from your paycheck. That way, you can avoid missing a contribution or spending the money before it makes it to the 401(k).

3. Consider an IRA. In addition to a 401(k), you can open an individual retirement account (IRA). An IRA is an account that you control (as opposed to your employer), and it can enhance your retirement savings. When you are considering your IRA options, take a look at no-load mutual funds that don’t chip away at your returns. Contribute to your IRA until you can convert it to a Roth IRA.

4. Infuse your portfolio with bonds. If you purchase bonds from a healthy company, you will get your interest and principle when the bond matures.

5. Put the rest of your money into a taxable account. The 401(k) and IRA are non-taxable accounts, but it is a good idea to also put some of your money into taxable accounts, such as high interest savings accounts, money markets, and CDs. Ladder short-term CDs so you aren’t stuck with the same interest rate for a long period of time if rates start to grow. Your CDs will renew at different times, allowing you to find CDs with better interest rates.

With some sound advice from a professional and a little self-discipline, you can build your retirement savings and enjoy your golden years to the fullest.

Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and Iraqi combat veteran. He blogs at Good Financial CentsSoldier of Finance and Life Insurance By Jeff.