Building a secure future to see us through our retirement years can seem a little daunting at times, especially when we are caught up in just trying to pay today’s bills.  

Monthly bills come in all shapes and sizes. Your bills might be way different from your neighbor’s bills.

We strive for a career that is somewhat fulfilling. We grow into a lifestyle that works for us based on our income and expenses. We know we need to save for retirement, and someday we will (retire, that is), intent on living a lifestyle similar to one we had become accustomed to while working. And we do all this with the hopes of having saved a portfolio that will sustain us through our retirement years.   

How do you plan for a retirement that seems so far away and so uncertain when really most of us are just trying to pay our monthly bills of today? It is time to get back to the basics of building wealth. 

Put your saving plan on autopilot. For most workers, this is a given, especially those who participate in a company-sponsored retirement plan. Your savings is automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into your retirement account each pay period. Once established, you don’t have to do a thing. Take the autopilot feature one step further and apply it to your investing, using what’s known as a target-date fund. This type of investment vehicle is a diversified all-in-one mutual fund with options to match your desired retirement date, and is now available in most 401(k) and other company-sponsored retirement plans.  

Take 30 minutes each year, and update your monthly savings amount to see whether you are on track with your longer-term retirement goals. Every significant financial-services company, like Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard, has planning software online that will offer clarity on your savings goal target.  

In my own household, I have found that once I have a ballpark idea of how much we should be saving, this knowledge is incredibly freeing. In fact, it is a powerful force in helping shape our spending and saving decisions of today. Remember, the first step in working toward a goal is to actually take that first step. When it comes to financial planning, the same is true. The first step is creating an awareness of how much you need to save to reach your financial goal of a secure retirement.   

You might notice I am spending most of my time in this column discussing the “saving” component of longer-term financial planning, and ignoring the “investing” component. That’s the way it should be.  

Once your portfolio is on autopilot, you can place your entire retirement-planning focus on what matters most, which is how much you save. Let’s face it; Wall Street and the financial-services industry try to capture your attention and persuade you into believing that savvy portfolio management is the key to your financial freedom. I’ve got news for you; it isn’t. The key to building wealth is to save more than you spend. It’s that simple. And, the time to start is now.