About 48 million Americans currently collect Social Security retirement benefits, while many millions more are still working -- and dreaming of the day when they, too, will be retirees. If you're among those pre-retirees, know that there are some actions you can take to make your financial future more secure.

Seven such actions are discussed below. This is important stuff, since retirement can last 30 or more years. The better you prepare for retirement, the better your retirement will be.

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1. Pay down debts

If possible, it's a fine idea to enter retirement with little to no debt. Definitely aim to pay off any high-interest-rate debt, such as that from credit cards, and consider getting your mortgage paid off, too.

2. Save aggressively and invest effectively

If your savings and investments for retirement are right where they should be, bravo! But most of us are woefully behind, and should be saving and investing aggressively. Check out the table below, showing how much you might amass over time:

Growing at 8% for

$7,000 invested annually

$15,000 invested annually

5 years



10 years



15 years



20 years



25 years



30 years



35 years



40 years



Source: Calculations by author.

The table uses an 8% growth rate -- which is a little more conservative than the stock market's long-term average annual growth rate over long periods. You can very easily grow your assets at roughly the same rate as the stock market via a low-fee index fund.

3. Make use of tax-advantaged retirement accounts -- including HSAs

It's smart to make good use of retirement savings accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s. For 2022, the maximum you can contribute to an IRA is $6,000 -- plus $1,000 if you're 50 or older. For 2023, it's $6,500 plus that $1,000 for older folks. The 401(k) contribution limit for 2022 is $20,500 -- plus an additional $6,500 if you're 50 or older, for a total of $27,000. It rises for 2023 to $22,500 plus $7,500 for those 50 and up, totaling $30,000.

Don't forget Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), too. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you may be able to pay for qualified expenses with pre-tax dollars. It can serve as a retirement savings account, too, because whatever remains in the HSA once you turn 65 can be withdrawn and spent on anything, though taxes can apply.

4. Develop a plan

Take a little time to develop a solid retirement plan. Start by estimating how much income you'll need in retirement and how you'll amass it. You'll likely need multiple income streams, such as Social Security, dividends, interest payments, and perhaps annuity income. Think, too, about your withdrawal strategy -- how much of your nest egg you'll withdraw each year. Ideally, draft a workable budget to follow in retirement, to prevent overspending.

5. Prepare to apply for Medicare

You can sign up for Medicare in the three months before or after the month in which you turn 65. Don't be late doing so, or you may face a big penalty: Your Part B premiums, which cover medical services, but not hospital services, might increase by 10% for each year that you were eligible for Medicare but didn't enroll. (Many people already receiving Social Security benefits at age 65 will be automatically enrolled, but don't assume that will happen.)

Read up on Medicare, too, and choose the Medicare plan that will serve you best.

6. Start learning about Social Security

Read up on Social Security, as well, because it's likely to provide a meaningful chunk of your precious retirement income. For many retirees, it provides 50% to 90% or more.

You can start collecting benefits as early as age 62 and as late as age 70, but the earlier you start, the smaller your checks, and the later the bigger. Remember, though, that starting early also means you collect many more checks -- and later means fewer.

7. Consult an advisor if you need one

Finally, don't be afraid to consult a good financial advisor for help with your retirement plan. It's a critical matter, and if you're not confident, a professional can help. Even if it costs you hundreds of dollars, it may save you far more than that. We like to recommend fee-only advisors, as they won't be earning commissions on investments they sell to you.

If you act on most, or all, of the recommendations above, you'll likely improve your future financial security -- a lot. It can mean the difference between a retirement full or trips and treats and one full of stress and worries.