Even if you’re saving for retirement, chances are likely that you’re not quite ready for that particular step. It might seem rather far off, and perhaps like something that you don’t need to worry about in the near future. But while it’s true that you may not need to start thinking about actually retiring in the near future, you still need to think about exactly what you’re going to do in terms of saving for retirement.

There are many factors that go into living safely into your retirement, including working with wealth managers and focusing on social security optimization. You need to have an understanding of how much money you’ll need in order to retire comfortably. Additionally, retirement income planning requires thinking about how long you’ll live after you retire. Nobody can reliably predict this, of course. But it’s still an uncomfortable topic for many. That’s why it’s generally recommended that begin planning for your retirement income sooner rather than later. Let’s consider how.

1. Social Security Optimization

Firstly, you need to focus on how best you can optimize your social security benefits. Social security is, after all, how most Americans bring in an income during their retirement. There are strategies that you can utilize in order to best maximize your benefits for the long term. For example, if individuals lack life-shortening health issues can begin collecting their social security benefits at any point in time without worrying as much about social security optimization strategies. Individuals are really better off deferring benefits in those cases, especially as most Americans live at least 20 years or more after retirement. Those that have shorter life expectancies, on the other hand, should begin collecting benefits sooner.

Social security optimization is different for married couples. There are several different options available for married couples in terms of social security optimization, including spousal and survivor benefits. Married couples should coordinate the start of their benefits, delay collecting their benefits in order to maximize their benefits in the long term, utilize spousal benefits as much as possible, and apply for survivor benefits as soon as possible after a spouse dies.

2. Invest Wisely

One reason why many people interested in retirement income planning turn to professional financial planners for help is that a part of planning for retirement can include investing in the stock market. This can offer you a great deal of return over time, and give you an additional income after you retire.

But generally speaking, it’s not wise to begin investing in the stock market without a professional financial planner to help you make smart investments. For all that you could make money, without proper strategies like portfolio stress testing, you could also lose money rather quickly. In general, practicing caution with the stock market is always intelligent.

3. Contribute to Employer Retirement Plans

Not all employers offer retirement plans to employees. But if yours does, you should strongly consider contributing to it over time. Try to contribute all that you can if you do. This has both long term and short term benefits. Over the long term, you can save money on your taxes and often receive bigger contributions from your employer. In the long term, this money will grow and better help provide for you after you’ve retired.

4. Contribute to an Individual Retirement Account

Aside from your employer-provided retirement plan, you may also want to consider contributing to an individual retirement plan, or IRA. An IRA can be traditional or a Roth IRA. The one you choose affects the terms of your withdrawal of the money, as well as the way that taxes affect your contributions.

Not only can you set up an IRA fairly simple; you can also make your contributions automatic. This would involve having a certain amount of money taken out of every one of your paychecks and put into the IRA.

It can, again, be awkward and even uncomfortable to begin planning for retirement. But the sooner you do, the easier it will be for you to live as you want when the time comes and you are fully retired. Don’t ever forget that this is a part of planning for your future.