As you approach retirement, there are steps you need to take to ensure your savings can last a lifetime. Regardless of your retirement goals — whether they include travel, moving to a warmer part of the country or spending more time with family, you need to ensure you will have enough money to step away from work, as well as enough income to last you through retirement. Getting your finances in line can help you decide when to retire and what lifestyle you can enjoy.

Now is the time to sit down with your spouse or partner and your financial advisor to take a serious look at the financial side of your retirement plans. We recommend following these six simple but powerful rules to ensure a comfortable retirement:

1. Save with an outcome in mind. Saving for retirement isn’t just about stockpiling cash. It’s about growing and positioning your investment portfolio to replace your working income and knowing the savings level and solutions needed to accomplish that.

2. Cover essential living expenses with guaranteed income. The biggest concern for retirees is that they will outlive their money. Eliminate this worry by building an “income floor” with guaranteed income that covers at least 80% of your basic living expenses. If you are invested in annuities available through your workplace retirement plan you are likely already well on your way.

3. Be smart about Social Security and taxes. Take advantage of tax-deferred savings vehicles, and manage your distributions and taxes carefully to avoid unnecessary reductions in your net income. When and how you draw Social Security can also affect the income level for you and possibly your spouse.

4. Factor in healthcare expenses. Failing to include possible healthcare expenses can sink even the strongest of retirement income plans. You should plan to live a long life. Though individual circumstances and costs vary, research shows retirement healthcare costs can be as much as $280,000 per couple.(1)

5. Adapt your investment strategy and your thinking. Unlike your accumulation years, in which you focused on saving and growing your assets over the long term, retirement requires creating an income from assets you have saved over the years. The risks you face in retirement are different than those you faced while accumulating, and can include outliving your nest egg, the effects of inflation and market volatility. You’ll need a flexible strategy to meet the goals of retirement living while also protecting against these new risks that can reduce your lifetime income stream.

6. Prepare for your legacy. Your retirement strategy should ensure that your surviving spouse, partner or any other members of your family you provide for have adequate income coverage for the rest of their lives.

If you have questions, or want additional information, call TIAA-CREF at 800 842-2252 or visit

(1) The average retired man will need $124,000, and the average retired woman $152,000, to cover these costs alone, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.” Fronstin, Paul, Dallas Salisbury and Jack VanDerhei. “Funding Savings Needed for Health Expenses for Persons Eligible for Medicare.” EBRI Issue Brief no. 351 (May 2010).