March celebrates National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), a time to help people understand their consumer rights and make well-informed decisions about money and saving for their retirement.

No matter your age, some of the most important financial decisions relate to retirement. With U.S. adults living longer—and thus spending more time in their post-working years—56 percent of Americans admit they are unsure if their retirement savings will last their lifetime. Additionally, nearly 90 percent of Americans are not very confident in their overall retirement savings situation.

To someone without a plan, these numbers can seem overwhelming. But, recognizing the stakes involved in retirement can be empowering—spurring you to take ownership of your financial future. Keep in mind the following, as you educate yourself about planning for this important time in your life.

1. Start now, regardless of age.

Today’s retirement can stretch for decades, and similarly, you’ll need a nest egg that can keep you comfortable for a long time. The best way to build up such a cushion is to start early. The earlier the better.  A retirement calculator can help you take the first step by projecting potential risk, tax implications, and estimated future savings growth.

2. Keep a realistic view of the future.

In a similar vein, it’s important to recognize that certain expenses, particularly healthcare expenses, are likely to increase as you age. Thus, when forming your retirement budget, you’ll want to leave no stone unturned. In addition to healthcare costs, be sure to factor in things like travel, the need for emergency savings to address anything unexpected, and general day-to-day expenses that meet your definition of a “comfortable lifestyle.” Remember, you’ll be facing these expenses for many years. To help provide a steady source of income that can help address your needs, you may consider products such as fixed index annuities (FIAs), which offer steady lifetime income, regardless of market swings, throughout your retirement.

3. Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.

The future is unpredictable, especially the future of financial markets. Although 401(k) accounts are an important part of a retirement portfolio, you may find it useful to consider products like FIAs to help give you an added layer of financial security. Not only can they provide much-needed balance to your portfolio, they also offer a guaranteed minimum rate of return and tax-deferred growth over time. It’s a way to make sure you aren’t putting all your eggs in one basket—the gold standard of financial planning.

The prospect of retirement should be something to take seriously, but it’s not scary. With some proper planning, dedication, and the right strategies, you can look forward to your “golden years” with satisfaction, knowing that you have the financial tools to support yourself.

NCPW: How planning for retirement can be empowering, not frightening