In 2020, only a quarter of Americans were confident they'd have enough money saved to live comfortably throughout retirement, according to a poll conducted by PrincipalIt's not surprising so few people are sure how they'll cope financially in their later years, as saving enough for a secure retirement can be a financial challenge. But there are some habits that can help make that happen.

According to Principal's study, confident Americans have done two key things to make sure they'll be ready to retire to a life free of financial worries. 

Older couple sitting on a bench on the beach.

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1. Saved a hefty emergency fund

Although studies have shown around 62% of Americans are living without an emergency fund, the numbers are very different for those who are confident about their retirement savings. In fact, a whopping 60% of those who feel secure about having enough to live on in retirement have an emergency fund large enough to cover at least seven months of expenses. This is actually more than the recommended minimum fund size, as most experts suggest having at least three to six months of living expenses in reserve.

It's not surprising that having an emergency fund makes these Americans more likely to feel secure about their later years, as this money means they won't have to pause retirement investing to cover unexpected expenses, they won't have to raid retirement accounts if they hit a financial rough spot, and they won't have to withdraw too much from their savings if something goes wrong. 

2. Worked with a financial professional

Having an emergency fund wasn't the only thing that confident Americans had in common. The same number, 6 in 10, had also worked with a financial professional.

Getting professional financial help can be beneficial for a number of reasons. A financial professional can offer advice on making a comprehensive plan for how much to save for retirement, what accounts to use, and what to invest money in. 

If you opt to work with a professional, you'll want to make sure you find someone with the right credentials who charges reasonable fees. You can get recommendations from friends and family or visit to find an advisor in your area. Talk with any professionals about the scope of their work and make sure you're choosing someone you're comfortable with to guide you. 

You may also decide you can make a comprehensive financial plan and select investments on your own without this type of assistance. There's nothing wrong with that. And you can still join the ranks of Americans who feel sure they'll have a secure retirement, even without paying for professional advice. The key is to actually sit down, make an informed plan, and monitor your progress over time. 

Take steps today to become more confident about your retirement prospects

If you want to join the minority of Americans who are confident they'll have enough money to live comfortably for the entirety of retirement, you can get started on achieving that goal today. Like the other Americans who feel their future is secure, you can save up an emergency fund to help you weather the 2020 recession or any other economic downturns or surprise expenses that crop up. And whether you work with a financial professional or do it on your own, you can create and begin executing a plan to save and invest wisely for your future.

Putting in the effort to do that is worth it, since the last thing you want is to spend your later years worried about running out of cash.