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The holidays are just around the corner, meaning it’s almost time to prepare for parties, travel, gift-giving and more. But what’s good for the spirit can be hard on the wallet. Without a proper plan in place, it can be easy to lose track of how much you’ve spent, which might affect your financial goals.

The point of any financial plan is not to restrict yourself unnecessarily, but to become intentional about the way you approach spending, saving and investing. It’s akin to the way we should approach retirement—by becoming aware of where our money is going, and how it is performing for us, we can make ourselves “Game Ready” for life after work.

Whether you’re managing your plan for the holidays or your broader path to retirement, the following best practices may help.

  1. Set realistic goals

    It’s much easier to stick to a plan when we know what we’re working towards. During the holidays, that could mean adhering to a maximum budget or fitting in a trip to somewhere warm. Similarly, in retirement, you might want to travel the world or build a cushion of savings to help manage health care expenses. In all cases, put your pen to paper and write out what you want to achieve.

  2. Figure out what it will take to get there

    What do you need to do to make that holiday trip happen? Search for low-cost flights? Figure out the cost-effective locations this time of year? Reach out to family and friends to ask who’ll be joining you? No matter the goal, you need to make a plan for action. When it comes to retirement, the process is the same. For example, if one of your retirement goals is to avoid running out of savings after you stop working, consider exploring tools that can provide guaranteed lifetime income, such as fixed indexed annuities. Either way, it’s important to ensure you have the details ironed out.

  3. Periodically check in

    To make sure you aren’t overspending during the holidays, you’ll need to keep track of your spending and saving. Likewise, when preparing for retirement, annual financial check ups can help ward off any unnecessary surprises.

  4. Don’t forget to enjoy the process

    Just like the holidays, retirement should ideally be one of the best times of our lives (they don’t call it the “golden years” for nothing!). While it’s important to have a plan and maintain discipline to follow through, don’t forget to allow for enough flexibility to relax and enjoy the ride.

At the end of the day, the most important aspect of success is intentionality, whether that’s for the holidays or for retirement. As long as we know where we are headed and are consciously taking steps to get there, getting “Game Ready” is right within our grasp.

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