Want a fabulous retirement? Start living better now

When Americans think about growing older, many of them feel worried about their health, being a burden to their families and not having a purpose.

Those concerns are understandable. But rather than worrying, it’s more productive to take actions to prevent those negative outcomes. While they’re still working, people can make lifestyle changes that can help set them up for a positive situation in retirement.

The choices you make now will influence your future health, well-being, finances and relationships. As you look toward retirement, stop worrying and instead, take these steps now to ensure a better life later.

Build healthy habits

If you don’t exercise regularly, start now. By getting active now and maintaining an active lifestyle into retirement, you can help fight the effects of aging and boost your chances for long-term health.

Pay attention to your nutrition and create a habit of eating a healthy, balanced diet. Along with physical activity, a healthy diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like Type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Avoiding chronic diseases can help ensure a healthier, more satisfying retirement.

Find your passion

Research shows that many people worry about not having a purpose after they retire. If that worries you, start looking for ways to enrich your life beyond the workplace.

Look for a cause or organization that is important to you and start volunteering your time. Along with making a difference, you can also get to know other like-minded individuals and build new friendships.

If volunteering isn't your thing, start pursuing a fun new hobby or revisit one you've abandoned in the past. Plant a garden, join a book club, start playing an instrument, cook gourmet meals, or find something else that brings you joy.

Pursuing something you feel passionate about will help you build a happier life now and prepare you for a more meaningful, enjoyable retirement.

Create financial stability for the long term

Finally, you can prepare for a more rewarding retirement by establishing strong financial habits now. Positive financial habits will ensure that your retirement funds will last longer and that you can avoid the stress and worry of becoming a financial burden to others.

First, get out of debt. Carrying long-term debt affects your ability to make purchases and to save for the future. It can also cause undue stress and related health problems, stifle your relationship with your spouse, and prevent you from reaching your financial goals. Make paying off your debt a top priority.

Second, contribute regularly to a retirement account. If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement account, and especially if your employer offers a matching contribution, be sure to contribute enough to get the match. It’s a good idea to contribute at least 10 percent to 15 percent of your income to your retirement fund.

And if you don’t live on a budget, start now. A budget is simply a plan for how you’ll spend your money, and when you stick to it, you’ll ensure that you have enough to save for the future and cover all your needs. Most people need to live on a budget in retirement, so getting used to it now will help you prepare for a smooth transition—and free up more money to save for that positive future.