01/05/2015 11:02 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 11:59 EST

Building Your Future: 10 Things You Can To Do Plan Your Retirement Finances Today

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We all have an idea of how we want to retire, whether it’s quitting work entirely and spending every day on the golf course, to finally writing that book or launching your own business. And you won’t be able to enjoy these new ventures if you’re constantly worried about the state of your finances. There are some easy ways to start preparing for your retirement, whether it’s far down the road or right around the corner.

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1. Figure out what you want to do in retirement

Or at least have an idea of what you might want to do when that time comes. Your decision is not set in stone, but having an idea of what you want to do when you retire can help you work and save towards that goal.

2. Set a target retirement or “end of this current career” date

So now that you know what you want to do when you retire, set a date for when you want to walk away from your career. That creates a set time for you to achieve your savings goals.

3. Know how much you actually earn and spend

What you earn isn’t what you take home. Figure out how much you take home after taxes and figure out how much you spend. Be honest about your spending habits, and correctly identify your necessary monthly expenses. Many Canadians are shocked to find out that they’re not living within their means.

4. Create and use a budget

Once you know your actual take-home income, you can create a budget and stick to it. A budget will tell you exactly how much you spend per week/month and can help you find savings. Once you find those savings, you can put the extra cash towards your retirement.

5. Meet with a financial advisor

We all could use a little expert help. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a financial advisor, either privately or through your bank. They can provide guidance and advice to anyone thinking of retirement. Come with questions ready, and be prepared to take their advice to heart.

6. Make use of apps

Forget spreadsheets; keeping track of your retirement is a simple matter once you properly implement financial software and apps. If you need help developing an ongoing budget, apps like Mint and Mvelopes are there to help. Some apps let you take a photo of your receipts so you don’t have to manually enter your spending at the end of the month, while others link to your bank account and send notifications when you hit your preset spending and savings limits.

7. Take advantage of automatic savings

Who has time to put money in a savings account every two weeks or every month? It’s far too easy to lose track and fall behind on your savings deposits. This is why automatic deduction from your main account to a savings account is such a great thing. You set your weekly/biweekly or monthly amount, set the date and forget about it. The money is taken out and placed where it can compound.

8. Make use of compound interest in RRSPs or TFSAs

Compound interest is a fabulous thing. The more money you save, the more interest you earn. All that interest is then reinvested back into your savings or investment strategy and you earn interest on the new amount. Imagine how much you could save over decades.

9. Take advantage of your employer’s retirement savings plan

If your employer has a defined contribution plan, sign up now. Plans like that will often contribute up to 100 per cent of your contributions. (Always read the fine print.) Now that’s a fine return on your investment!

10. Ask questions

Most of us are unsure what our retirement is going to look like and that’s okay. That’s why if you’re not sure about something, ask the experts, ask your friends and your parents. Just make sure you end up with a plan that’s right for you and your future.