First off, I’m NOT an advisor. I’m a retirement researcher, writer and educator. I have a few Do’s and Don’ts to consider as you begin planning your retirement and finding the right person/people to help you go from Savings (401k, etc.) to Security (creating an income for life from your 401k).
- DON’T listen to a neighbor, a friend or even that friendly financial/investment advisor who’s probably not well versed in retirement planning and is biased toward investments. The insurance advisor is biased toward insurance. And the big companies in both camps spend a lot of money to spread their version of the truth. Looks for a “retirement advisor” who’s license in both investments and insurance and therefore, doesn’t have the bias of one vs. the other. They should be dedicated and taking the time to educate you about this retirement planning process and all the strategies they are recommending vs. just saying “it’s a good idea because I said so.” All professional service providers make money….they must be paid like everyone else. Just make sure they are 100% transparent in their fees.
- DO listen to retirement researchers, academics and economists who focus on retirement planning and there are plenty.
- DO base you decisions on research…always ask Why? and ask for the data to support an advisor’s/friend’s recommendation.
- The right answer can only be found by answering a number of questions about you and your goals, along with analyzing what you’ve got, what you’ll have, and what you’ll need. And then finding the best combination of strategies to make your money lasts throughout retirement.
- You’ll need to have an open mind as it relates to retirement/distribution strategies because they are completely different than the accumulation phase of life.
- The traditional 60/40 portfolio is dead. As you approach and enter retirement, you’ll need a portfolio strategy that reduces your risk, while also being positioned to take advantage of growth. You MUST mitigate volatility in retirement. There are a number of ways to do this. With the current low bond returns, you should seek alternatives. For some that may include Fixed Indexed Annuities. For others, it may be structured investments. Stocks will always be a part of your portfolio, albeit a smaller part.
- DON’T work with an advisor who knows nothing about tax planning for retirement…and most CPAs don’t know how to do pro-active retirement planning. A true retirement advisor knows how to integrate tax efficient withdrawal strategies into your income distribution plan so that you keep as much of your hard earned money as possible. This may be one of the most important strategies. Side note: ask them about Roth Conversions…2020 may be a perfect storm for Roths for many people.
- DO make sure your portfolio is stress tested and proven to last in ALL market environments.
- DON’T let anyone guess as to when you should take Social Security. This accounts for 33% of your income in retirement (in most cases) and must be incorporated into your overall income planning. The answer as to when depends on a lot of factors. Also, Social Security must be included in your tax picture as well. Since 85% of your benefit could be taxable without the right planning.
- DO find out if they are aware of MAGI and Medicare (and the impact on how much you’ll pay for Medicare). Make sure they have resources to help you navigate the Medicare maze.
- DO find out if they help you find ways to fund a Long Term Care policy, if needed?
- DO consider a reverse mortgage as an emergency income buffer…this is a perfect example of when having an open mind is important. Find out what the retirement academics say about reverse mortgages. And, no, they can’t take your house away if you follow some basic rules, like paying your taxes. And no, the bank doesn’t own your home. Take the time to find the facts vs. listening to hearsay.
- DO find out if the advisor you’re considering working with has a team of providers to help you with other ancillary needs.
I do believe it’s impossible for the layperson (and most of the 300,000 financial advisors in this country), to do ALL of the proper retirement planning that must be done to improve and secure your retirement outcome.
Fortunately or unfortunately, advisors, like many other for-profit companies have to make money. But, with the right advisor you won’t question their fees…their value will be evident in everything they do for you. DO make sure they are committed to spending whatever time you need to be 100% confident in your plan and are acting in your best interests. And there’s nothing wrong with checking their references.
Finally, most of us have good intuition when choosing our professionals. Get to know him/her. Ask about his/her family. Ask about their perspectives on finances and life. Ask why they do what they do. Find out a lot about this person personally, and then dig into their “retirement planning” experience.
It’s easy for an advisor to give you credentials and pretty reports and look good on the surface. But dig a little deeper and you might be able to discover if he or she is the real deal.
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