Don't Waste Your Money Makeover: Six secrets from successful retirees

(WXYZ) - We all have dreams for retirement - laying on the beach, traveling the world, watching our grandkids grow up - but the only way that's going to happen is if we plan now.

Retirement may be in the distant future or it may be next week but the key to enjoying it is starting early.

"There are young people right now who won't get a pension. It's going to be interesting.  If someone doesn't leave them money, I don't know how they'll make it," says Ellis Liddell of ELE Wealth Management .

For most of us, not making it is simply not an option.

So what can we do?

Consumer Reports got six secrets straight from successful retirees.

They include:

1. Staying in a job that has a defined benefit pension plan
2. Maximizing your 401(k) contributions while working
3. Buying instead of renting
4. Paying off mortgages before retirement
5. Starting to plan at an early age
6. Living modestly without spending beyond your means.

"Many people who are in their 50s grew up watching Robin Leach on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and their goal was one day to be rich and famous. And unfortunately the people start living way beyond their means," says Liddell.

A better idea is to start saving, even if it's just a little bit.

Liddell says, "Let's just say the average person saves just 5%, somehow, a year.  Over a 20 year period of time, your money will double two or three times."

For Liddell, consulting a financial planner is essential.

"You have to have somebody who becomes you money's conscience."

Paying off your biggest debt, like mortgage and car payments, can set you up for an ideal retirement.

"Because here's the thing that's interesting- a 75-year-old on Social Security can live better than a 40-year-old working and making $80,000 a year," says Liddell.

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