We can’t give you an exact figure on how much you should contribute to your pension plan — unfortunately. Especially when you are younger and haven’t even thought about retirement. After all, that could be decades away.

“Your first step is to determine what your retirement will look like,” states Miranda Marquit in a previous Due article. “My reality is that retirement will probably look a lot like what I do now.” For Miranda, that means continuing to work while also having a lifestyle that she enjoys. “I volunteer, travel, and engage in local causes. I might write about different things, and I might travel more than I do now, but I don’t expect to stop freelancing until I absolutely have to.”

“Take a look at your own goals,” Miranda suggests. “What do you want to do in retirement? Do you want a second career? Do you want to volunteer more? Travel more?

“Consider what ‘retirement’ looks for you,” she adds. “Chances are it isn’t “traditional,” and that makes a difference in what you will need during retirement.”

“I know that eventually my body will give out and I will probably need long-term care or something similar, so I am saving up for that reality,” Miranda writes. “In the meantime, though, I expect my ‘retirement’ will be a variation of what I do now.”

Consider Your Monthly Needs and Cash Flow.

After determining what “you want your retirement to look like, consider your monthly needs and cash flow,” says Miranda. “Basing your retirement needs on what you expect to live on each month is a good way to break it down into something manageable.”

A great starting point is to review your current cash flow and expenses. “What are you doing now, and how much does your lifestyle cost each month?” she asks. “Research what the differences might be if you change things up a bit.”

For Miranda, she evaluates different scenarios. “If I decide to remain with Idaho as my home base, I will downsize after my son finishes high school, and my monthly living expenses will decrease.” But, “I also know I will travel more, so that will balance out. If I move out of Idaho to a more expensive city (which I might prefer), my downsizing will still put me in a living situation close to my current costs.”

“Once you have an idea of which items will cost less and which will cost more, you can determine how much you will need in retirement as it relates to monthly cash flow,” recommends Miranda. “You can then use that number to determine how much of a nest egg you will need to build in order to supply that.”

“Of course, if you plan to create income during retirement, a large nest egg might not be as necessary. I am on track to have between $800,000 and $1 million when I think I will need it, and it will likely be enough for me because I know that the first couple decades of my “retirement” will involve writing if at all possible.”

Does Your Pension Meet all of Your Retirement Needs?

At the minimum, you need to have enough to cover your basic needs, such as housing and food. You also need to take into account the lifestyle you want to live and medical expenses. And, in most cases, your pension alone will probably not be enough.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a universal pension sum. They vary among employers. Moreover, your pension is based on factors like your age, salary, and how long you were with the company.

Why’s that a problem? Let’s say that you only work for a company for ten years and take another position elsewhere. You may no longer qualify for your former employer’s pension plan.

Even if you were banking on your pension and remained loyal, your employer could still change or terminate the plan. That means if you were only relying on your pension for retirement, you might be left empty-handed. Again, more companies are transitioning to a 401(k) model.

And finally, pensions are not the same as Social Security benefits. That means that they aren’t funded through payroll taxes. As such, coverage isn’t as extensive.

To help you get a better grasp on what you need in retirement, try these retirement calculators: