If you plan to retire within the next 10 years, it's time to start getting serious about preparing for a future without a paycheck.

You'll need a hefty retirement account to support you, and you must do everything possible to be fully financially prepared once you leave work. Here are three steps you should take now to prepare for your impending retirement.

Calendar labeled "Time to Retire"

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Take advantage of catch-up contributions if you're old enough

Once you hit 50, the government wants to give you a little extra help saving for retirement, in the form of catch-up contributions.

Catch-up contributions increase the amount of money you can contribute to tax-advantaged accounts such as your 401(k) or IRA. Here's how they work: 

  • In 2021, you can contribute $19,500 to a 401(k) if you're under 50. If you're 50 or over, you can make an additional $6,500 catch-up contribution for a total of $26,000. 
  • You can contribute $6,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA in 2021. But if you're eligible for catch-up contributions, you can contribute an extra $1,000 for a total of $7,000. 

The ability to sock away more tax-advantaged funds for retirement can help ensure you can support yourself throughout your later years. 

2. Examine the benefits of a Roth conversion to decide if it's right for you

If you've been contributing to a traditional IRA or 401(k) for your entire working life, it's worth thinking about whether a Roth conversion makes sense.

Converting to a Roth would allow you to withdraw money tax free as a retiree, rather than owing taxes on your distributions. And your withdrawals wouldn't potentially render your Social Security checks taxable, which is a problem that could affect high-earning retirees taking money out of traditional accounts. 

But there are serious financial consequences to a Roth conversion. You'll owe taxes on the converted amount in the year of the contribution. And you may have to wait five years to withdraw money from your new Roth account without penalties. 

It's important to weigh the pros and cons carefully. But if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket as a retiree than you are now, a conversion could make sense. And it may be better to do it sooner rather than later because of the five-year rule. 

3. Estimate your future Social Security benefits

Once you get near the end of your career, you can get a pretty accurate estimation of your future Social Security benefits by signing into your online account. 

Checking what you can expect to receive will give you a clearer idea of exactly how much support Social Security will provide (which may be less than you think). It can also help you make a more informed choice about when to claim benefits, as your age at the time of claiming will affect the amount you receive. 

Once you've seen what Social Security will do for you, you may be even more motivated to take advantage of those catch-up contributions to ensure you're really ready to leave work within the coming decade.