No one can live entirely in the present, so in some ways, we’re all planning for the future, even if we aren’t making conscious decisions about how to save money or create a retirement plan. But those things are imperative once we reach a certain age or start a family, no matter how scary they may seem, and it’s important to know what risks are involved, what the best strategies are, and how to go about plotting out a safe future not just for yourself, but for your family as well.

With some planning and preparation, you can work out a plan that will give you peace of mind and won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed or unsure. Here are the best ways to do that.

Think about higher education

If you have more than one child, it might be a little overwhelming to think of how to start those college funds–or whether you’ll be able to save enough by the time your children are ready to choose a school. Starting when they’re young helps, and the two most popular options are opening up a savings account in their names or starting a 529 college savings account. With a regular savings account, there will be a little bit of interest growth over the years but you’ll be able to use it however you see fit. With a 529 account, your after-tax money accrues with tax benefits until your child is ready to go to school, but there are catches; if he or she earns a scholarship or decides not to go to college at all, the money may not be available to you in the full amount.

Prepare for retirement

Depending on your current income, you’re going to need an estimated 70-90% of what you make now to maintain your standard of living after you retire. That means a lot of saving and planning, so sit down with your spouse or partner and work out a budget so that you can begin putting away money weekly or bi-weekly. That might mean cutting coupons and tightening the belt when it comes to household spending, but it will be worth it when you’ve built up a nice cushion for your golden years.

Get your affairs in order now

It’s not fun to think about, but planning for your family’s security after you’re gone will give you peace of mind now and keep your loved ones from dealing with a lengthy, drawn-out legal process where your estate is concerned. Consult a lawyer to find out the best ways to ensure your home, finances, and other assets are in order.

Ask for help

You don’t have to do all the planning for your future alone; when family members ask about potential holiday or birthday gifts, tell them you’d love a contribution to your child’s college account instead of an expensive toy, or a check to add to your own savings account rather than a store-bought gift. Your loved ones will appreciate knowing that their gift will go to a worthy cause, and you’ll have a little extra to sock away for the future.

Carl Sera

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