02/02/2015 10:18 EST | Updated 02/02/2015 10:59 EST

Planning Makes Perfect: The Simple Joy Of Crafting Your Retirement

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Retirement can be a joyous time — one that allows you to truly reap the benefits of careful planning and a lifetime of hard work. What shape it takes on is entirely in your hands, whether it means days spent perfecting your golf game down south or taking on a part-time job. There’s no single path. That’s why it’s so important to get expert advice and make it a smooth transition.

Here’s a few nuggets on where to get savvy advice designed to make planning your retirement a laid-back and enjoyable affair.

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Visit your bank

Your bank is an invaluable source of trusted information. Set up an appointment with an investment advisor at your home branch or the one closest to you. He or she can help you attain an accurate picture of your current financial standing, and then help create a customized, step-by-step retirement plan to suit your goals.

Strength in numbers with CARP

Consider joining your local chapter of CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons), a non-profit group dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for citizens as they age. Its extensive network puts you in touch with like-minded people and professionals who can offer guidance on health and financial matters pertaining to retirement. There’s an important social aspect as well with seminars, events and excursions available for members.

Estate planning know how

Having a proper estate plan is something everyone should have, regardless of age. For aspiring retirees, it’s an important piece of the retirement puzzle. Consider what you would like to pass along to your heirs and create a plan of execution with advice from your financial advisor, accountant or lawyer. Your wishes may affect your retirement strategy, from determining which assets to keep or sell to steps to minimizing estate taxes.

The DIY approach

Maybe you’re not ready to talk to a financial advisor yet, but you can gather some pertinent information from your bank. Check your bank’s website for handy tools, like a retirement income calculator (to determine what funds you’ll need to fulfill your goals), a live chat function to get real-time answers to your money questions, how-to articles, videos, and quizzes on things like how you stack up against other Canadians also on the road to retirement.

Ask retirees

Chances are, your circle of friends and family already includes experts on retirement, namely retirees themselves. Don’t be bashful about asking them for their opinions. What did they do right? What would they do differently? Are they living a retirement lifestyle that you covet? How did they do it? As part of your fact-finding mission, it pays to tap into this group-in-the-know.