As another new year begins, you likely have goals to better yourself and your family. In light of an unpredictable economy, however, you also should set retirement goals. While resources may occasionally be tight, there is no reason why you should be caught off guard when it’s time to retire. Follow these five simple resolutions to improve your chances of obtaining the ultimate retirement lifestyle of which you have always dreamed.

1. Pay off debt
Before you can save money, you must first pay off debt. According to USA Today, the average credit card debt per borrower in the U.S. is aboutnearly $5,000. Perhaps your credit card debt is even higher—and you likely have other obligations on top of that, such as personal loans, medical bills, and mortgages. If you insist on only making minimum payments, you will ultimately waste money on interest. Instead, focus on paying down your balances so you don’t have to contend with debt after you retire.

2. Match your 401(k)
You’re lucky if your employer offers a 401(k) plan. You’re even luckier if your company matches your contributions. This is an opportunity to get “free” retirement funds, so take full advantage and always invest the maximum amount your employer will match. For example, if the company matches 2 percent, then make sure this percentage is deducted from every paycheck—this match will make a significant impact in the long run.

3. Roll over to Roth
Traditional IRAs are an alternative method of interest-accruing savings. If your IRA is relatively young, consider switching to a Roth IRA. With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes up front, before the account accrues any interest. While you might spend more in the short term, you will actually save money on taxes when it comes time to cash out the account. This will reduce the chances of having to give up a dream trip or failing to meet another retirement goal because you’re stuck paying taxes.

4. Watch for fees
Among the numerous moneymaking retirement opportunities also lie the many ways companies can charge you fees. Unfortunately, many of these fees are charged after you retire and try to cash out your accounts. Getting a Roth IRA is just one of the many ways to avoid fees. Always check with your accountant to make sure any fees are paid up front so you don’t encounter any surprises.

5. Know when to retire
Saving for retirement is just a part of the battle in achieving the best lifestyle possible. As a final resolution, you should seriously consider the best time to retire. If you have an IRA or a 401(k), you can start cashing out the funds without penalty when you turn 59 ½. At the same time, you won’t qualify for full Social Security benefits until you reach at least 65. Depending on your financial situation, it may be worth waiting to retire for a few extra years until you can maximize your savings.

Jeff Rose is a certified financial planner and author of the blogs Good Financial Cents and Learn more about his Debt Movement, where he’s inspiring people to pay off $10,000,000 of debt in 90 days. 

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