I remember having a conversation with my grandfather about retirement and how it wasn’t what he had planned for. He had spent many grueling hours with my grandmother meticulously reviewing their finances, looking at cruise options, reviewing their will, and considering downsizing the family home. A retirement plan, isn’t simply opening up an IRA or savings account. He once told me, “Planning is the cheapest part of retirement.” I didn’t really understand what that meant, I envisioned that retirement was just funded–however, preparation is key to enjoying your retirement. Today, after 20 years of being in retirement, he has enjoyed every minute of it. I see so many people who struggle through their retirement because they never thought ahead–they never considered a budget, or a retirement plan. My grandfather always insisted that I start as early as possible, but really “buckle down” about 10-15 years before my retirement.

Planning for retirement can be easy, it doesn’t have to be a struggle. In fact, author Jeff Yeager says, “It’s as easy as ABC”. His book, “How to Retire the Cheapskate Way: The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement” is a great resource showing you exactly why planning for retirement is as easy as ABC. In this article, we will review letters A – L and provide unique ideas and assistance to help you prepare and plan for a better, earlier, happier retirement.

A = Anticipation
Studies have shown that people who spend more time envisioning or planning for their retirement are significantly more likely to be satisfied once their retirement arrives. Regardless of the size of the nest egg, those who are prepared and anticipate retirement are genuinely content.

B = Budgeting
Many those of happily retired structure their retirement lifestyles and budgets so that their basic cost of living (i.e., fixed expenses) are covered by their guaranteed income sources, like Social Security, pensions, annuities, etc. That leaves their variable sources of income (investments, part time jobs, etc.) to cover their discretionary spending.

C = Cost of Living
No one will ever advise you to under save for retirement. But it’s worth considering that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s Consume Expenditure Survey, an average American spend increasingly less on just about everything other than health care as they age throughout their traditional retirement years.

D = Downsizing
Consider downsizing your lifestyle and spending. Getting rid of unwanted stuff, and even more dramatic steps like moving into a small home or giving up an automobile will not only save you a bunch of money, but a simpler lifestyle might very well make you happier too.

E = Equity
Should you tap into the equity in your home with a reverse mortgage to finance your retirement? That’s the question a lot of people are answer, and the answer–like most–depends on your individual situations. Reverse mortgages can be complicated and come with high costs, and they are generally considered a last resort for retirement funding.

F = Freebies
“Senior Discounts” are no longer a laughing matter once you are actually qualifying for them. Everything from a $10 lifetime pass to all National Park properties, to a free donut when you buy a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts with an AARP card–getting older has it’s benefits.

G = Gauge
Gauging your true readiness to give up your work-life and settle into a satisfying, affordable retirement can be one of the biggest challenges facing those considering retirement. Try “test driving” your anticipated retirement lifestyle and budget by making as many of those changes before you actually stop working.

H = Healthy
Spend at least as much time taking care of your health as you spend worrying about poor health and how you’re going to pay for health care.

I = Insurance
It pays to reexamine your insurance needs when you retire. You might find that the insurance policy you currently have is not practical or affordable for where you are. Look at your options and you could possibly see that you can forego a disability plan.

J = Jumpstart
Consider capping your spending right where it is and banking what you’ll likely receive in raises and cost-of-living increases during the rest of your career to feather you retirement nest egg.

K = Knowledge
The greatest asset you have to being prepared and enjoying your retirement is knowledge. Gaining knowledge doesn’t cost a lot. Websites like AARP.org have retirement planning and lifestyle advice. Also, borrow all of the retirement-related books you could ever read–include Jeff Yeager’s book, at your local library.

L = Long-Term Care
An important part of retirement planning is deciding what contingency plans you should make in the event that at some point you become unable to care for yourself.