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Dubai: Have you started saving for your retirement yet?

If you haven’t, here’s the good news: you’re not alone. In fact, you are part of the majority in the UAE where less than half of the expatriates say they are regularly saving for their retirement. The bad news: it only gets harder as you wait.

Here are five basics you need to know about retirement planning.

1. Start early

This is the single most important thing you can do, experts say, and for two reasons. One, the earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow and the less it will cost. Chris Divito, former managing director for the Middle East and Africa at Friends Provident International, says that while it is easy to postpone making plans when you still have a long career ahead of you, it only means you will need to save a larger portion of your earnings as you wait.

Two, people are living longer. This means you have more years to fund than your great grandparents might have had.

“Our recent survey showed that 58 per cent of respondents planned on saving for their retirement for the last 10 years of their working lives. That is highly unlikely to be enough time to build an adequate retirement fund,” Divito said.

Even if you’re still young, Vanguard Group, the American investment advisor, stresses the importance of saving for your golden years.

“Saving for retirement might be the most important thing you ever do with your money. And the earlier you begin, the less money it will take,” Vanguard says on its website.

2. Cash isn’t your friend – diversify your investments

Cash only loses its value over time due to inflation, so if you are only keeping your money aside in cash, expect that value to depreciate by the time you retire. Wealth managers recommend investing in different assets including property, some cash, riskier ones such as equities, and safe bets such as gold and bonds.

Ron Lieber, an author who writes for The New York Times’s money column, recommends index funds, calling them “your best bet.” Rather than focusing on one stock or one industry, index funds track the broader stock market index, which tends to have lower volatility.

Sure, you won’t be seeing that large uptick when, say, Apple or Google announce strong financial results and their share prices gain. But you also won’t have to constantly track news around every individual company to know how its share prices may react to any news, meaning you can step back and forget about your investment for months at a time.

3. Update your investment strategy on the regular

You don’t have to stick to one formula – tweak your investment strategy based on assets you prefer. If you are starting early in your career, you can probably afford taking some risk, with your investments skewed more heavily towards equities. If you’re only a few years away from retirement, most experts recommend less risk, with a portfolio skewed towards gold, and even some cash. Even then, tweak your portfolio when you see sound opportunities or when your risk appetite changes.

4. Get professional advice

“Whichever way you choose to fund your retirement, it is vital you take independent financial advice. Financial advisors have access to a wide range of savings and investment plans and can tailor a retirement strategy to suit your needs,” said Friends Provident’s Divito.

That is not to say you should shell out on premium wealth managers, but a professional will at least be able to tip you in the right direction for your investments even if you choose to later handle your portfolio yourself.

5. Check your home country’s pension scheme

If you are an expatriate in the UAE, chances are you don’t have a formal pension scheme in the country, and for many people, they will not qualify for a state pension for their home country. If that’s the case, plan ahead for your retirement.

According to the latest study by Friends Provident International, more than half of the respondents (who are expatriates in UAE) will not qualify for a state pension from their home country, and a further 16 per cent don’t know if they will qualify. This indicates that many people are not giving retirement planning the attention it deserves, Friends Provident said.