]When it comes to your retirement, the more plans you have in place, the better. Although retiring should be a long-term financial goal, with measures put in place throughout life to support it, the period around five years before you aim to stop work is critical. This is the moment to put your financial affairs in order and start getting some informed advice about your options and what decisions you will need to make. These choices will very much shape the remainder of your life, so seeking support from a qualified financial advisor and pensions specialist is a must. However, there are some steps you can take independently that will help you go into an appointment prepared.


Understand Your Income and Outgoings

Having a very clear picture of the state of your personal finances is the first key step in your retirement planning, Use online retirement calculators to work out what you might need in order to support the quality of life you expect to have. It’s a good idea to collect together or request up to date copies of all of your pensions statements to understand what the reality is when it comes to what you will be receiving in a few years time. Take into account the savings and investments that you have hopefully built up over time that may be able to provide an additional stream of income when you formally retire from work.


De Risk Your Portfolio

Where you have savings in stocks and shares or other commodities, now is the time to look at transferring to low-risk options. Higher risk profiles often bring much greater returns, but they are only suitable for savings you don’t require access to for a long time. That way, if things should suffer a downturn, there is time for them to even out and for the portfolio as a whole to correct itself eventually. If you will need to access returns in a short time period of five years or less, you need to go for options which are relatively low-risk but which may provide lesser gains. This will give you a bit more financial security and a clearer idea of what income you may be able to count on in retirement.


Boost Your Pension Pot

If you discover that the projected amount you’ll have to live on is a little less than you’re comfortable with, you’ll be able to refocus your efforts on boosting the amount you can save. Plan to up your pension contributions to as much as you can afford, or if you are fit and well, think about deferring your retirement or just continuing to work part time for a while longer to help you build up your savings. This has the double benefit of helping you to increase the amount in your pension pot, while also decreasing the length of time you’ll be relying on it. Build a realistic budget that you will be living on after retirement, and try it out for a few months –  any savings you make can go back into the pot.