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When it comes to retirement, it's easy to think it's far off in the distance. But here's the truth: the sooner you start preparing, the better.

A recent survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute® asked retirement-aged (60-65) Americans about the advice they’d give their younger selves when planning for retirement. Take a look at these five essential tips that can help guide you toward a comfortable retirement journey:

Tip #1: Start saving early

One of the most valuable pieces of financial advice is to start saving as early as possible. 63% of the respondents in our survey said this to be true. The sooner you begin, the more time your money can potentially benefit from the power of compounding growth.

Compounding interest allows your savings the opportunity to grow exponentially over time, as you earn interest not only on your initial investment but also on the interest it generates. Starting early gives you a significant advantage in building wealth and achieving your financial goals.

Tip #2: Create and stick to a budget

Nearly one-quarter of the people in our survey (24%) listed creating a budget and sticking to it as advice they’d give to their younger self. Crafting a budget is a crucial and fundamental step to help achieve a secure and worry-free retirement.

A well-planned budget not only provides a clear and comprehensive view of your income and expenses but also grants you the power to exercise better control over your financial situation. By tracking your expenses, you can identify areas where you can make necessary cutbacks, freeing up additional funds for your savings and ultimately paving the way for a more financially stable future.

Tip #3: Maximize retirement contributions

Maximizing your retirement plan contributions is a consistent habit to keep. In our survey, 23% of the people would give this advice to their younger self when planning for retirement. By taking advantage of retirement plans such as a 401(k), an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or any tax qualified retirement plan, you can contribute the maximum allowed amount, which in turn can significantly boost your savings and help provide a solid foundation for your future.

Your employer may match your contributions up to a certain percentage, which is another way to build your retirement savings. It's worth noting that maximizing your retirement contributions may even offer potential tax benefits, further augmenting your financial gains as you progress along your retirement journey.

Tip #4: Manage and minimize debt

Debt can be a significant roadblock on your path to a stress-free retirement. We found in our survey that retirement-age Americans carry about $70,000 in debt on average.

It's essential to develop a realistic and effective strategy to manage and minimize your debt. Prioritize paying off high-interest debts like credit cards first, as they can quickly become overwhelming if left unchecked. If you have loans such as mortgages or student loans, consider their interest rates and payment terms and plan accordingly.

It's also beneficial to avoid incurring unnecessary debt. Remember, the less debt you have as you move into retirement, the more of your savings you can devote to enjoying your golden years.

Tip #5: Work with a financial professional

Achieving a financially secure retirement often requires specialized knowledge that may exceed your individual expertise. When it comes to financial matters, it's wise to seek advice from a trusted financial professional. They can provide valuable guidance on how to manage your investments optimally, navigate tax laws, and effectively plan for retirement. In fact, in our survey, 86% of people listed that working with a financial professional to make a retirement plan improved their readiness for retirement.

A financial professional can help assess and understand your unique financial situation, identify potential pitfalls, and formulate a clear, comprehensive plan that aligns with your retirement goals. They can also help monitor your progress and make necessary adjustments over time, helping ensure that you stay on the right course.

Your opportunity to take action

Securing a comfortable retirement is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires early action, careful planning, disciplined spending, budget adherence, and maximizing contributions. Working with a financial professional can also provide valuable guidance and expertise throughout this journey. Each step builds upon the other, creating a solid foundation for a fulfilling retirement. Remember, it's never too early to start preparing for the retirement you deserve.

Nationwide has a variety of personal finance resources. Talk to your financial professional or learn more at

Methodology: Edelman Data and Intelligence (DXI) conducted a nationally representative online survey of 1,000 U.S. residents aged 60-65 on behalf of Nationwide from November 2 – 29, 2023. As a member in good standing with The Insights Association as well as ESOMAR Edelman Data and Intelligence conducts all research in accordance with local, national and international laws as well as in line with all Market Research Standards and Guidelines.

Investing involves market risk, including possible loss of principal, and there is no guarantee that investment objectives will be achieved.

Nationwide and its representatives do not give legal or tax advice. An attorney or tax advisor should be consulted for answers to specific questions.

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