We’ve all heard those warnings about saving early to be ready for retirement, but the reality is planning for retirement requires a bit more finesse than simply saving. Whether you’re preparing for retirement yourself or are a caregiver helping a recent retiree, there are a few ways to make sure you can be more than prepared for your golden years.

It’s More about Spending than Saving

No matter how much you save, if you don’t spend wisely, it could result in some disastrous financial consequences during retirement. It’s important with every investment that you look at the long-term picture, not just the immediate future. Planning your spending habits ahead of time is critical when working with a fixed budget, no matter how much you’ve saved.

According to AgingCare, your first years in retirement are especially important for spending wisely: “Many financial advisers recommend you spend 4% of your portfolio in the first year of retirement and adjust that amount in subsequent years for inflation. For example, if you’ve saved $1 million, you should only spend $40,000 in your first year.” This recommendation has everything to do with making sure you still have enough cushion in your subsequent years of retirement. And, spending more conservatively in your first few years will mean you may still earn greater interest on your remaining savings, making it easier to “loosen” up in your later years of retirement and spend a bit more flexibly.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Conservative spending also helps make sure you or your loved one will be able to weather any financial, family, health, or other emergencies that may occur during retirement years. A good plan is to spend within your budget to make sure you have the flexibility to pay for the unexpected whenever is needed. Additionally, this will prepare you for any environmental changes that are out of your control, like fluctuations in financial, housing, or other markets that could affect your savings.

Changing your spending and saving behavior to reflect whatever unexpected changes may occur during your retirement will help your finances remain consistent and longer-lasting. The feeling of reassurance in knowing you are covered under any circumstances is worth creating a slightly stricter budget during retirement.

Don’t Just Save, Save Smart

It seems obvious, but it’s important to make sure that as you save for retirement you go beyond simply putting your money into a savings account. Factoring in interest as well as potential returns on investment if you are involved in the stock market can mean that what you save goes far beyond your initial investment.

If you are unsure of the best way to smartly invest or distribute your savings to ensure a better retirement, it could be worth going to a financial planner who can help you allocate your savings in the most beneficial way possible. A financial planner can help you determine how to invest in the stock market, or they can outline various savings account options that have various benefits and interest rates that can be tailored to your needs. The earlier you smartly invest your savings, the better the long-term outlook of your retirement years.

Retirement doesn’t have to be a daunting situation financially. By preparing early and learning strategies to smartly save and wisely spend, you could easily manage many years of comfortable retirement.