By Jason LaBarge
Premier Planning Group
When doing something you’ve never done before, it’s easy to procrastinate, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Unfortunately, meeting with a financial professional and planning for retirement is often put off for this very reason. I’ve had many people meet with me for the first time just months before retiring, which can contribute to feelings of anxiousness, because they feel as if they are rushing through the planning process.
As a retirement specialist, I want you to walk into your retirement party with a swagger, fully confident in your future! To do this, the best time to start looking for a retirement planner is five to 10 years before you plan to retire. I’ve outlined the five things you can expect to be asked at your first meeting with a retirement planner, and I’ve explained why each item is important when creating an effective and realistic plan.
You do not need to have a specific retirement date in mind, but having a general idea of when you’d like to stop working is important. You’ll set goals and benchmarks for preparing for retirement, and if you begin planning 10 years out, your action items will be different from what they would be if you are five years or one year out from retirement.
A longer planning period helps ensure that nothing is missed and things are done in a timely manner. I like my clients to start living their retirement budget six months before they stop working. We then meet six and three months out from their retirement date for an income planning session and to double-check that everything is in place.
Some things, such as Social Security, pension plans and Medicare, require time to get started. For example, the Social Security Administration suggests that you file three months before your retirement date. Knowing your retirement timelines and planning ahead gives you a much better chance of seeing your goals and dreams come true.
Goals and Dreams
When building your list of your retirement goals and dreams, make sure that they are what you want and what you value. This should not be a list of things you “think” you should want to do, because “everyone else is doing it.” This is your own personal list of what is most important to you.
You should include the travel and fun you’ve always wanted to do, but you should consider things like what assistance, if any, you would like to provide to your children and grandchildren, if leaving a legacy is important to you. Thinking about your goals and dreams before your first meeting will give your financial professional a good understanding from which to create a realistic budget for your future.
Most people have no idea what their budget needs to be in retirement and the standard “80 percent of your current salary” may or may not be accurate, because it doesn’t take your personal circumstances into consideration. When clients present their family budget to me, it’s not my job to judge whether their line items stay or go; it’s my job to help you plan for those expenses in every stage of retirement.
Due to space restrictions, I can’t go into detail on my three stages of retirement, but here is a quick overview:
To make sure your money will last through retirement, a planner should look at your family budget and help you determine how much you need. It can be difficult to estimate inflation and project costs 20 to 30 years out, but starting with your current family budget gives them a head start.
Statements and Documents
If you are meeting with a retirement planner, it makes sense to take your various statements and documents with you. It may surprise you, however, what your financial professional will learn from them.
Bring the last few years of tax returns, 401(k) statements, savings account and brokerage account statements, any life insurance or long-term care insurance policies, etc.
When we ask for your retirement account statements, it’s not so much to see the dollar amounts (although that’s important); it’s to see how your money is allocated. Is it a 401(k), 403(b), Roth IRA or traditional IRA? How aggressively or conservatively have you allocated your money? All of these questions will help give your retirement planner a baseline for your finances and an idea for your risk tolerance. This allows them to create a personalized plan that will cover your desired retirement budget while also anticipating some questions and concerns you may have.
In the weeks or days leading up to your first meeting with a retirement planner, you should start writing a list of questions you have. It’s so easy to forget once you’re sitting in their office, but having your questions written down will ensure you don’t forget anything. No question is stupid, so make sure you ask your questions! This is your time to not only talk about your retirement but also get to know the financial professional and decide if his or her approach and philosophy to retirement planning falls in line with your own.
Interestingly enough, most people put off meeting with a retirement planner out of fear that they will learn they haven’t “saved enough” to retire, but worrying won’t change anything. If you start your planning process early, you’ll know what you’re really working with and can take concrete steps to get where you want to be. The first step to gaining confidence in your future is to start the planning process, and that starts with your first meeting with a retirement planner.
Premier Planning Group is an independent firm with securities offered through Summit Brokerage Services, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC. 443-837-2520. Opinions expressed are that of the author and are not endorsed by the named broker dealer or its affiliates. The information in this article is not intended as tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor.