The road to retirement just keeps getting more difficult to navigate, with new products, new rules and new technologies.
It helps to have a guide.
And there are plenty of them out there — brokers, planners, agents and money managers, all offering to steer prospective clients to the lifestyle they long to have in their golden years.
Which one should you hire? This is going to sound kind of obvious, but I'd recommend the one who's carrying the best map.
Let's face it: There are lots of financial professionals today who can get you started down the right path with investment advice. They'll happily take your money — whether it's through a commission or a fee — in exchange for getting you into the "appropriate mix" of stocks, bonds and other securities. And that's probably fine if you're young and just setting out.
But the professional who limits his or her leadership to investing advice is not going to get you comfortably and confidently to your retirement goals. And if you're paying for advice, that's what you should expect — a plan that focuses on these five key areas of your financial life:
You could spend decades in retirement, and you need to be sure you'll have reliable income streams to pay your month-to-month expenses for the rest of your life. This area typically should cover:
- Social Security maximization
- Income and expense analysis
- A plan for the surviving spouse
- Longevity protection
Once your income plan is established, it's time to talk about your remaining assets (those that you won't need to draw from every month). The conversation should cover:
- Assessing your risk tolerance
- Adjusting your portfolio to reduce fees
- Volatility control
- Ways to reduce risk while still working toward your goals
- Comprehensive institutional money management
Your comprehensive retirement plan should include ways to decrease tax liabilities, including:
- Assessing the taxable nature of your current holdings
- Possible IRA planning
- Strategizing ways to include tax-deferred or tax-free money in your plan
- Strategizing which tax category to draw income from first to potentially reduce your tax burden
- Discussing ways to leverage your qualified money to leave tax-free dollars to your beneficiaries
Health Care Planning
Today's retirees need a plan to address rising health care costs with minimum expense. Strategies should include:
- Looking at all aspects of Medicare parts A, B and D
- Analyzing options for a long-term care plan
It's important that your hard-earned assets go to your beneficiaries in the most tax-efficient manner. Your adviser should work collaboratively with a qualified estate-planning attorney to help you:
- Maximize your estate and income tax planning opportunities
- Protect any assets in trust and ensure they are distributed probate-free to your beneficiaries
- Prevent your IRA and other qualified accounts from becoming fully taxable to your beneficiaries upon your death
If you're paying somebody for advice and they're not talking about these five areas, most likely you're missing out. (If you're doing it yourself, good luck.)
Right now, I know, it looks easy. We're in an eight and a half-year bull market, and it's hard to imagine anyone getting it wrong.
But there's more to retirement than buying and selling. There are 30 or more years of financial security at stake. For that, you need a comprehensive plan and a specialist's guiding hand.