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The idea of a traditional career and retirement are slowly fading. Long gone are the days when people worked for the same company until they turned 65, retired, then enjoyed the rest of their lives while collecting Social Security and a nice pension from the company of which they were so loyal.

Life today isn’t so simple. Social Security shows little promise for the future and, for most people, “pensions” amount only to personal 401(k) investments with minor company assistance.

This arrangement, although not as good as arrangements in the past, still promised many a comparable retirement lifestyle. But with the recent economic downturn, many people are forced to delay retirement, lower their standard of living, or in many situations, both. Recent dips in the stock market have translated to significant drops in 401(k) investments for most people.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77 million Baby Boomers will reach the “normal” retirement age within the next few years. The decisions they make to stay in the workforce as long as possible or to retire at a reasonable age (even if it means living on a somewhat reduced income), will have an enormous impact on the local and national economy.

These older employees bring years of stability and experience to a company and are valuable assets in the workforce. However, with this being the case, a bottleneck is created making it much more difficult for younger people to find jobs.

Despite your particular situation, the next few years will have their share of challenges. Careful spending and rational budgeting are essential to help you reach your goals.

Develop a plan and stick to it. No matter your age, you should set goals and strive to meet them. Don’t forget to review and revise your goals as times change.

Remember, retirement is a cherished goal for many and a time to enjoy the numerous years of hard work you’ve accomplished.