In just a generation, the retirement landscape has changed dramatically.

Before, most middle-class families were able to save enough money during their working years to live with dignity in their retirement days. Many paid off their homes, got rid of all their debts, and retired with pensions from their employers. Even if all else failed, they could usually rely on Social Security to make ends meet.

These days, many people near retirement age have little to no savings and too much debt to even think about retiring. It’s bad enough that baby boomers carry mortgage debt into retirement instead of paying it off beforehand. However, they often have student loans and other kinds of debt too. This challenges their ability to retire the way they want to, or even to retire at all.

If you are nearing retirement age, make sure you get your financial house in order before you make the jump.

Ditch the student loans.
You can help your child with his/her tuition when they are young – but not when you’re about to retire. Don’t delay making retirement contributions in order to help pay for their college debt. As a parent, it’s tempting to want to help, but remember – these are their loans. Teach your kids to take full responsibility, and have them pay it down on their own. Then, move your money over to retirement savings instead.

Get rid of unsecured debt.
Ideally, you’ll head into retirement with no debt at all. However, if you have various types of debt to deal with, try to focus on the ones with the highest interest first (i.e. credit cards, car loans, etc.). If it is too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Sometimes, having the right partner on your side can be the difference between success and failure. Resolve your debt now, and your future self will thank you for it.

Prepare a retirement budget.
Don’t just estimate how much money you’ll need in retirement. Create an actual budget and spending plan. You need to give yourself an idea of what your expenses will be like when you are not working. Some costs may come down (i.e. commuting costs) but others may rise. You need to account for everything you plan to do in retirement. For instance, will you be traveling? Aside from covering the day-to-days basics, you may also need to set aside some funds for leisure in your golden years.

The better you plan now, the more financially secure you will feel when you actually retire.