Surveys continue to show that Americans simply aren’t prepared for retirement. We don’t have enough saved and most of us aren’t even sure just how much we should be saving. This presents a real problem, especially as the huge population of Baby Boomers is on the verge of retirement.

As you ring in the New Year, consider whether or not it’s time to include retirement planning on your list of resolutions. If you’re older than 50, the answer is a resounding yes. In truth, though, it’s never too early to start planning for retirement. So, whether you are 25 or 50, these 5 retirement resolutions for the New Year will help ensure that when the time comes, you will be ready to enjoy the retirement you have always imagined.

1) Start saving early – You will hear it over and over again until retirement resolutionthe time you retire, but it is the absolute truth. The sooner you can save for retirement, the better off you will be in your later years. If you start young, it doesn’t have to be a massive chunk of your savings, but even a small percentage can make a big difference in the long run. If you are over 40 and certainly if you are over 50, saving for retirement should be one of your top financial priorities.

2) Be consistent –  Starting early will help, but if you don’t have a concrete budget or savings schedule, you may get very off track for your goal. Set a plan in stone and stick to it, whether that means contributing the same percentage of income to retirement over time or gradually increasing the amount you dedicate. Studies have shown that individuals who have written retirement plans are significantly more prepared financially, so put it in writing and go over it regularly.

3) Consider the cost of long term care – Health care expenses are often the biggest and most unexpected bill that come out of retirement. A Fidelity study released earlier this year found that the average 65-year-old couple retiring in 2013 will need around $220,000 for health expenses alone, and that is before factoring in long term care, which averages $50,000 annually. Self-insuring for long term care may seem like a fine option, but if you end up needing care for more than a couple years, you may run the risk of outliving your finances. Long term care insurance helps cover the cost of care you receive for an extended period of time. Fill out this form and we will send you a personalized comparison of the top long term care insurance policies for you to look over on your own time and see whether or not it is right for you.

4) Pay off your debt –  It’s hard to be a happy retiree if you have an excess of debt looming over your head all of the time. Before you enter retirement, address and reduce your debt the absolute best you can, or else you may be in a financial struggle for much longer than anticipated. With no steady income in retirement, paying off debt should be one of the first things you do when you begin saving. Credit card debt amongst seniors has increased in recent years, so avoid credit cards if you feel that might be an issue.

5) Prioritize wants and needs – This may be the most important resolution of all, because it encompasses them all. Saving for retirement means seriously evaluating your lifestyle and your spending habits. By establishing an order of what is most important financially, you help eliminate the chance of unnecessary spending. Think through all of your purchases and when it comes to retirement, decide what is most important to you.

Planning for retirement doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, an overwhelmingly stressful endeavor. If you begin early enough, it should be a gradual process that ensures you are in a good position when it comes time to leave work. Enjoy the holidays and ringing in the New Year, but don’t forget to use sensible guidelines when it comes to what to buy, what to save, and when to indulge. Happy New Year!