The reality is, retirement could easily encompass nearly a third of your life. Statistics tell us the average age of retirement in the United States is around age 63, and the average retirement lasts roughly 18 years.[1] This means half of retirees will experience a retirement that lasts even longer – perhaps even significantly so.

To really put this in perspective, think back to nearly 20 years ago. What were you doing at the time? Preparing for college? Beginning your career? Perhaps you were starting a family or working toward that next promotion. The point is, you didn’t simply let those 20 years happen; there was a lot of planning and consideration that went into how you spent that time.

The same logic applies to retirement. For a retirement that spans decades of your life, you need to plan just as meticulously as you did in the decades preceding it. With that in mind, here are four ways to prepare yourself for a successful retirement.

1. Define retirement in your terms

You may not have the answers now, but you should give it some thought. Retirement isn’t about just walking away from a job. It’s about what comes next. This could be a time where you explore a second career; maybe you take that hobby to the next level semi-professionally; or perhaps you dedicate these years to spending as much time as possible with children and grandchildren. The key is to make sure you’re preparing to make your years in retirement as fulfilling and rewarding as possible.

2. Focus on accumulating assets

In the time leading up to your retirement, commit to improving your financial well-being. You can do so by taking advantage of the investment vehicles available to you and making smart decisions with your money while you still have the benefit of time on your side. Maximize your contributions to tax-advantaged investment accounts like an IRA or an employer-sponsored 401(k) account. Consider increasing your contribution amount each time you get a raise or a bonus. As time goes on, take advantage of catch-up contributions when you turn age 50 to really maximize the assets you’re setting aside in the years leading up to retirement.

3. Make your health, and healthcare, a priority 

Retirement is no longer just about how long you live; it’s also about how long you’re living a full, healthy life. Just as you focus on your financial well-being, be sure to also focus on your physical well-being. At the same time, be sure you’re preparing financially for future medical expenses. You may also want to consider implementing an insurance strategy that includes long-term care insurance to protect your assets from unexpected healthcare costs.

4. Manage your expenses today to prepare for tomorrow

Set yourself up for success by establishing and adjusting to a lower cost of living in preparation for retirement. Critically examine your fixed expenses and see what you can scale back. Concurrently, work on eliminating debt so you can increase your retirement contributions. You should also take the time to create a budget for retirement that accounts for your anticipated discretionary and non-discretionary expenses.

Meet with a PNC Investments Financial Advisor for personalized guidance

Start planning today and set yourself up for a financially successful retirement tomorrow. Remember, the earlier you get started, the longer you’ll have to make adjustments and correct for any unforeseen setbacks you might experience along the way.

Speak with a PNC Investments Financial Advisor today by calling 855-PNC-INVEST, or stop by a local branch.