by Nikki Ducas

A strong work ethic paired with being a good steward of money in my adolescence (putting money in savings and allowing bonds to fully mature) is how I was able to put $10,000 down as payment on my first house at 28.

Today, financial literacy is as important as ever and there is no shortage of ways to get savvy about money—from books and videos to apps and websites, it’s all there for the taking. Here’s what I did to get the retirement ball rolling.

Start Saving for Retirement Early.

It all started when I was 23. I was between my second and third job out of college and I had the gumption to walk into my bank and talk to a financial advisor. You see, I was able to pay my rent and utilities, buy groceries and clothing, set money aside for an emergency fund, pay my student loans and still have enough money to do fun stuff. Sure I could have played it safe and just put it into a savings account, but I wanted to make sure my extra money was working for me. So I opened a Roth IRA. Because I was young and I was uncertain what my financial future held, it was a good choice for me since my contributions could be withdrawn anytime.

When I finally landed at a company that I stayed with for more than a year, I opened a 403b (It was a non-profit association). I gradually put in $30,000 and since I quit at 30, my initial investment has grown to $55,000 in 10-plus years. The money was direct deposited, so I never saw it to miss it. It was an easy way to save.

For simplicity sake, I transferred my Roth IRA and rolled my 403b into an IRA at Vanguard and invest in index funds.

Maximize Savings on a Budget.

Also consider cutting back on expenses. Look for places in your budget where you can minimize or shop around for better rates, like groceries, insurance and discretionary spending. Recently, we switched our car and homeowner’s insurance to save 50 percent off our premium. Set that extra money aside in a savings account until you reach your savings goals.

Know How Much You Need for Retirement.

A rule of thumb is that you’ll need 70 percent of your yearly salary to live comfortably in retirement. That is manageable since we are in good health and we’ve paid off our mortgage. Being that we are in our 40s, I’ve read that it is suggested that we should have three times our annual income saved.

Take a look at your current expenses and estimate how they’ll change. For example, you won’t have commuting costs but may have higher healthcare costs. Use a retirement income calculator to help estimate your retirement expenses.

Lastly, be on the same page financially with your partner. My husband and I are successful financially because we have clear communication in all things financial. We discuss everything from budgeting to how much we save to how we plan to spend our retirement years. With a good plan you both agree on and stick to, you can watch your money multiply over time much like we have. Good luck!