You may not know what you need to do in order to retire, how much money you'll need for living expenses after you stop working, or what you'll do with all the time you'll have after you walk out on your last job. But you know one thing: At some point, you want to start calling your own shots when it comes to how you'll spend your time -- while having the financial resources to back you up.

How are you going to get there? Having a solid plan is crucial.

No size fits all
Figuring out how to plan for your retirement takes a lot of effort. The main reason is that everyone's different. Your ideal retirement may look nothing like someone else's, so you won't be able to follow the same strategies to succeed in retiring on your terms. Variables like when you want to retire, how extravagant or thrifty you want to be in your golden years, and what other demands on your time and money you have in the meantime all make a huge difference in the tactics that will best get you to the finish line.

Moreover, you can't anticipate everything that will happen along the way. Suffering a job loss or getting a big promotion may significantly change your trajectory toward retirement. Even once you retire, you can't be sure about your longevity and health. So your plan has to be both flexible and conservative in order to handle as many contingencies as possible.

Building on a solid foundation
Even though your plan for retirement will be unique, you need to learn some fundamentals to create and implement your plan. That's where the Fool's retirement resource, Rule Your Retirement, can help you get started.

In its third anniversary issue -- available right now with no obligation -- Rule Your Retirement goes back to the basics with a simple three-step plan. Robert Brokamp, the Fool's retirement expert, gives you the tools you need to make the most of the financial resources you have now, along with suggestions on how to uncover new sources of income. But the first thing he'll tell you is that you need a plan.

Here at the Fool, we pride ourselves on finding investments that will give you great returns. Sure, finding the right stocks for retirement is extremely valuable. Winners like (NASDAQ:BIDU), Volcom (NASDAQ:VLCM), and MasterCard (NYSE:MA) provide a much-needed shot in the arm for your portfolio. But while it's nice to see your portfolio balance go up every quarter, you also need to know where you're going or you may find yourself always at the mercy of the markets. And as many retirees discovered in 2000 and 2001, that's not always the best place to be.

Get what you need
Let Rule Your Retirement guide your steps along the path to financial independence and prosperity. This month's newsletter not only offers the framework of a financial plan, but also adds resources that will help you fill in the blanks. In addition, our 30-day free trial gives you access to everything Rule Your Retirement has to offer, including three years of back issues, our special discussion boards, and much more.

You know you want to retire. With a little help, you can get what you need to make your wishes come true.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is well on his way down the road to retirement. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Volcom is a Hidden Gems pick, as well as part of "6 Supertrends and 6 Superstocks" that Tom Gardner explains in his Fortune article. MasterCard is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy works 24/7 for you.