Retirement should be a time when you can enjoy yourself, spend a bit on hobbies and leisure, and not panic about how that spending will affect your future years. But in order to be confident in that, you need a plan. And a plan is only as good as its goal.
In this recent Kiplinger article, financial planner Robert Dodaro urges future retirees making their plans to be clear and honest about what they truly want out of their retirement years. And he provides three questions to help steer your plans in the right direction. Let’s take a look and see just how helpful these three questions are.
Question #1: “Why Did You Save for Retirement?”
It’s easy to save mindlessly in the lead-up to retirement, gathering as many resources as possible in the hopes that your retirement will be a time when you don’t have to worry about how much you spend. But it’s equally as common to be fearful of spending that money once retirement finally arrives, worrying that you’ll run out of resources prematurely.
As you plan your retirement savings, it’s vital to ask yourself: what is this money for? Why am I saving? Are you hoping to spend more money on hobbies when you retire, or on travel, or on going out to eat? Or are you saving for security’s sake, keeping your lifestyle as close to the same as possible? Neither way is “right”, but whatever you choose, that should be where your efforts go as you save.
Dodaro puts it this way: “If you think back to why you started saving for retirement, you’ll be able to figure out how you want to spend your retirement, and your adviser will be able to build a plan that is suited to your needs.”
Question #2: “Are You Worried About the Cost of Long-Term Care?”
It’s no secret that long-term care can be a burdensome expense, and waiting until you retire to start saving and planning for it can be a major stressor. Unplanned long-term care costs can completely upend your finances in your golden years. It definitely doesn’t need to be that way, though, especially if you work long-term care into your retirement plan from the get-go.
This planning can include any one of a number of available options. In his article, Dodaro discusses the merits of various choices for addressing long-term care. For some retirees, the best strategy is to count on Medicaid or VA benefits, and to plan accordingly. Other retirees with greater resources may plan on paying for LTC costs out-of-pocket, potentially leaving relatively little of your assets to pass to family. These days there are a growing number of insurance and investment options to protect against the costs of long-term care: traditional LTC insurance, life insurance policies with long-term care benefits, hybrid annuities, and policies that grant accelerated death benefits for chronic illness.
None of these options is inherently right or wrong, but Dodaro makes it clear: “The point is to know yourself so that you can build a plan that is customized to your goals while providing protections for your concerns.” Because this issue is both complex and costly, we urge you to seek out the services of a professional fee-based financial planner who will help guide you to the decision that’s right for you and your family.
Question #3: “How Big a Financial Legacy do You Want for Your Family?”
Any planning for retirement spending should always include a plan for what you’ll pass along to family, even if that seems like distant goal at this stage. For those who don’t really care, Dodaro encourages them to go back to the first question in this list. “Are you going to spend extra money when it’s available to spend? If the answer is no, then you need to figure out the best ways to pass on your wealth to your family. It can be gifting strategies, buying life insurance, or building a Roth conversion strategy; the answer depends on you.”
Even if you still remain unconvinced that it matters how much you leave behind, you may want to think hard about how much of your estate will be eventually taken by taxes. Dodaro posits, “Let’s say, hypothetically, that 60 percent of your estate will go to taxes when you die. Would you do anything differently now to change that outcome?”
Nothing beats a written plan, including a financial dashboard, for building the sort of retirement you dream of, especially if you’re looking to work with a financial professional to make that dream happen. But no written plan is complete without an honest appraisal of your hopes, goals, and desires. Time spent considering these questions—and answering them honestly—will save you time down the road, and may even preserve you from heartache. An enjoyable and fulfilling retirement is one built on a well-written, honest, and effective plan.
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(originally reported at www.kiplinger.com)