GETTING started is probably the hardest part of a retirement plan as it is easy to think that retirement is decades away.

However, procrastination could lose you thousands of dollars and could make the difference between a comfortable retirement and one where you are barely getting by.

If you are employed and between the ages of 20 and 40, you may be buying a house, a car, furniture, and thinking about your children’s education fund. When asked about their retirement fund, the most common reply from Singaporeans is: “I barely have enough money for my monthly expenses. How can I save for retirement?”

As housing, health care, transportation and education costs continue to increase, it is little wonder that saving for retirement takes a back seat. But it doesn’t have to.

You probably think you can’t afford to save for your retirement at this time. You’re wrong. Even a small amount invested wisely could be substantial in years to come.

Goal setting

If you are convinced that you should start planning for your retirement, the next question is, “How do I begin?”

First, list your retirement goals. Goals may include travelling, retiring comfortably or enjoying an even better lifestyle than your current one. Maybe you want to start a business that you have a passion for or contribute to society in meaningful ways.

Whatever your goals, you will need an income. People are living longer and your retirement could last 30 or more years. To estimate how much money you would actually need when you retire, you can visit www.cpf.gov.sg/cpf_trans/ssl/retirement/home.asp and use the CPF calculator to assist you.

Budgeting

Next, create a budget. If you don’t have a clue about how much you spend every month, keep a journal of every cent and dollar you spend for three months. You’ll see where your money is going and be able to better manage expenses.

Your budget must include a payment to your retirement plan even if it’s only a few dollars.

Family input

Discuss your retirement plans with your family, especially your spouse. Chances are, you’ll both retire at about the same time so you need to be in agreement on this critical part of your life.

If both you and your spouse have careers, the two of you should be contributing to this retirement fund.

Make your decisions together and try to develop a plan that will be acceptable to both parties.

Be focused. Even the best retirement plan could be in serious trouble if you allow yourself to dip into it for frivolous luxuries. If your budget doesn’t seem to cover all your expenses, you may be confusing necessities with luxuries.

Do you really need to upgrade your car or change your mobile phone when a new model is out in the market? Do you need to have an expensive holiday or that designer bag?

It is the little things that will eat into your budget. You don’t have to deny yourself every luxury, but just spend wisely.

Making choices

Now that you have some money put aside, you need to think about investing so that your nest egg will grow.

However, investing money can present complex challenges to most people who are already so busy with their work and family commitments.

How do you achieve your financial goals so that you have a substantial nest egg waiting for you when you stop working? You can consider engaging a financial services consultant to help you plan and make changes to your investment portfolio.

Deciding where to invest is a lot easier with the help of an experienced professional. Do your homework and choose someone you feel you can trust. There are many articles on the Internet that offer advice on how to pick the right financial adviser.

So start saving now. Don’t embark on your retirement with empty pockets and no strategy.