Whether you’re planning to spend your golden years sunbathing on the beach with a book, traveling the world or spending more time with loved ones, you’ve likely thought about the cost of retirement. Between rising health care costs, taxes and inflation, there’s a lot to consider when saving for the future.

Checking these five items off your retirement savings to-do list can help you prepare for a comfortable retirement years down the road.

1. Determine your retirement savings goals

The first step to thinking about retirement savings is asking yourself what you want your retirement to look like. How do you plan to fill your time?

A general rule of thumb is that you will likely need around 80% of your pre-retirement income in retirement (since you’re no longer contributing to your retirement accounts or paying Social Security and Medicare taxes). But Emily Millsap, manager of financial planning at tax-focused wealth management firm Avantax, says it’s important to consider your specific goals and how much they will cost you, such as travel, volunteering or eating out with friends.

2. Calculate how much money you will need

Once you’ve determined what your retirement goals are, it’s time to figure out how much money to save based on your current income and expenses, and what your income and expenses will be in retirement.

General savings principles — like replacing 80% of your pre-retirement income and saving enough to be able to withdraw 4% of your savings during your first year of retirement — can help you begin to determine how much you’ll need to save. Bankrate has a retirement savings calculator to help you figure out whether you are on track.

Just be sure that you’re not ignoring expenses that could sneak up on you.

“It’s really important to build out all of your base living expenses and then the additional bigger expenses that will probably pop up,” Millisap says. Think car repairs, or replacing a roof.

3. Plan for the unexpected

Even if you determine a baseline for your retirement savings, and account for extra costs that might creep up, it’s important to be flexible.

“We have to be prepared to modify our plan when life happens because the one thing that is certain is life is going to throw you some curveballs, whether it is health-related or money-related or family dynamics,” Millsap says.

Take long-term care. The annual median cost of care for a private room in a nursing home is more than $116,000, according to insurance company New York Life’s most recent survey on cost of care. Needing long-term care earlier than expected could throw a wrench in your financial plans.

In addition to making your retirement plan open to change, it’s important to consistently check in on your savings as you approach retirement so you can make any necessary adjustments, Millsap says.

4. Choose your retirement accounts

There are many tax-advantaged investment accounts you can use to save for retirement, including:

  • 401(k)s: These workplace retirement accounts often come with an employer match. Contributions to these accounts are tax-deferred, meaning that the money grows without you having to worry about taxes until you start making withdrawals after age 59 ½.
  • Traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs): Like 401(k)s, traditional IRAs allow you to make pre-tax contributions to your retirement savings and pay taxes when you withdraw the money in retirement. As the name implies, these accounts are held solely by individuals; they’re not offered through employers.
  • Roth IRAs: The tax treatment on Roth IRAs is the opposite of traditional IRAs. You can make contributions with after-tax dollars and then withdraw the money in retirement tax-free.

Other retirement savings accounts include Simple IRAs, SEP IRAs and Solo 401(k)s. Health savings accounts (HSAs) are a triple tax-advantaged way to save for healthcare expenses in retirement, since you make pre-tax contributions that can reduce your taxable income, and your withdrawals are tax-free as long as they’re used for qualified medical expenses.

5. Start saving

When it comes to investing for retirement, time is your best friend. Investing $500 a month at a rate of return of 7% over the next 30 years will get you over $560,000, even when you take taxes and inflation into account.

Financial advisors say that setting aside even a small amount of money in a tax-advantaged retirement savings account now can make a big difference for your future.

Bottom line

The key to saving for retirement is thinking early about your goals and how much money you’ll need to reach them. Even if retirement is decades away, walking through this financial checklist can help you get on track — and eventually enjoy your ideal retirement.