Reduce your debt, establish a budget and insure against health emergencies: Those are the three essential actions experts say you must take if you plan to keep working long past retirement age. It’s solid advice for anyone at any age, but is too often neglected by people who assume they will always be able to earn a paycheck.

“A lot of people think, ‘I’m going to work forever,’” says financial advisor Bill Bailey, whose office is in Citrus Heights, California. “That’s a great, noble attitude.” But often, life doesn’t work out that way, so you need to create a backup plan that increases your financial flexibility.

Cathy Ahles and her husband, Fred, want to work until the day they die. “We just know we’re those kind of people,” she says. The entrepreneurial pair – he is a partner in an aviation brokerage business where she works as well – plan to bow out of that career within the next five years.

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After that, it’s on to the next act: Fred, 62, will become a solo broker, and Cathy, 61, currently senior vice president of marketing, will become a marketing consultant and teacher. But how do they build a foundation that supports their future dreams? They will eventually sell their shares in Premier Aircraft Sales, to their current partners or a suitable outside investor. But, like many other sixtysomethings, they’ll need more than the proceeds from the sale to sustain them in retirement.

Here are five factors that the Ahles and anyone who plans to work past 65 should consider.

Set a realistic stop-work goal: As we near 65, many of us plan to work forever. We think that because we’ve reached the traditional retirement age and aren’t slowing down, we never will. But life can change quickly. “I know lots of entrepreneurs who say they’re not going to retire,” says David Lucca, a partner with Rhoads Lucca Capital Management, based in Dallas, Texas. “When they get into their 70s, they start to shift.” Suddenly, they’re thinking about retirement.