Many retirement-related expectations of today's workers stand in stark contrast to the actual experiences of today's retirees. Consider the expectation of doing some level of paid work during retirement.

Several studies have found that about 70% of today's workers expect to continue working to some degree during their retirement years. And they're pretty confident they'll be able to—three out of four workers age 45 and older are "somewhat or very confident" they will be able to find paid employment during retirement.

Most of these folks envision working part-time, or even moving at their own discretion back and forth between seasons of paid employment and seasons of leisure. Some plan to work because they need the money, but others are motivated by the desire for stimulation and satisfaction.

It sounds so ideal, but it is disconnected from the realities of today's retirees—only 25% of whom have actually worked for pay during retirement. In many cases, health-related issues get in the way of plans for paid employment. Other retirees have found it's not so easy to find a job when you're in your 60s or 70s. As a result, less than a third of current retirees remain confident that their plans to work will eventually materialize.

A better alternative to job-seeking may be self-employment. This route offers the opportunity to create work you really want to do and to do that work on your own schedule. Working from home also may enable you to continue doing that work even if any health issues occur that would get in the way of commuting to a more traditional job. Plus, self-employment means there's no need to find a job at a time in life when age discrimination can become common.

But starting your own business is not a walk in the park. That's why, if the idea appeals to you, the time to start creating your own business is now, while you have the safety net of your current income. Here are some key steps.

1. Identify the business. 

Usually, the most viable type of business to start is one related to the field you're currently in. If you're a teacher, you could become a tutor. If you're a corporate accountant, you could do taxes for individuals and/or small businesses. If you build houses, you could become a handyman. If you work as an administrative assistant, you could become a virtual assistant.

2. Understand the difference between a business and hobby. 

According to the IRS, an activity qualifies as a business if "it is carried on with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit." An important benchmark the IRS looks for is whether you make a profit during at least three out of five tax years.

It'll help if you truly run your operation as a business. That means maintaining your business books and records separately from your personal books, opening a separate business checking account, having business cards printed, and obtaining any required business licenses and permits.

3. Choose a business structure. 

The simplest form of business is one in which you simply hang out the proverbial shingle and operate as a sole proprietor. It is not a separate legal entity; it is simply you operating a business, although the business can have a unique name. You report business income and expenses on Schedule C of your individual tax return.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to set up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a "Sub S" Corporation instead. These can offer more personal legal protection should your business ever be sued. This is an important decision, so it's worth spending a little time researching the pros and cons of each type of legal structure.

Once you've decided on a structure, check with your state's department of revenue or secretary of state's office for information on how to register your business.